Why I Take So Long To Look At Art


First, is the pop. From the other end of a gallery space, through a cafe window, or plastered across a brick wall as I round the corner. The composition tells me immediately where to look and it feels good, even before the subject is apparent. In the lines and in the color, there’s something loose and moving.

Second, is the zoom, my favorite part of the conversation with the art. I’m summoned and the resolution comes into focus, emerging at walking speed. Two steps ago, my eyes only knew where to move. Two more steps, and shadows start flirting with highlights. Details emerge. Foreground separates from background. I savor the vague forms I only get to see once before closing the distance. 

Here comes the subject, then, and the medium announcing itself. Closer, and the strokes appear. The order and organization, there no matter how fast the work was made. Now, the subject starts interacting with the way the artist has laid down their lines and it says more than the subject itself. Punchy negative spaces, or something left unpolished in the corner, minimalist forms leaning up against sharp detail. My initial reactions start to blend with the artist’s message, then with my impression of the artist as an individual. I draw closer, even, and stay still to absorb the last of the details they’ve offered.

How many minutes pass while I watch foreground and background tug at one another, or all the happy accidents in the composition reinforcing the more intentional lines? Enough of them, I suppose. But here’s where I want more. Sometimes, that’s asking too much. Sometimes, it’s just enough.

The artist has left one last layer to process. Read past the decoys, they hint. There's something in the gray area, missed. Something legible in the mess, a very deliberate placement of color that means everything, or one bold contradiction hidden out in the open.