Tuesday, April 19, 2011

People Are Sight Hounds

We rely on our sight for hunting. That is the way we developed and this ability to see and compare quickly, is one key to our species success. What we see has power for us and over us.

It is our bases for reality. This is not the case for all species. Dogs, for instance get 80% of their environmental information from their sense of smell. For them, smell is more real than even sight. While they do know what we look like, it is our smell that does the final identification of us. We rely on what we see.

Visual cues and clues are extremely important to us from infancy onward.

First emphasis is on facial recognition, eye to eye contact. Eyes draw our eyes from the first and what we cannot see disappears.


This link between sight and reality is what makes peek-a-boo such an exciting game. When something is out of sight it does indeed disappear for the baby. And why what we see has so much power over us. There is some truth to the saying “out of sight out of mind”.

Things we see are real to us, even when they are not. How often have we exclaimed about how realistic something looks, how a painting almost looks as if we could walk into it. Been fooled by some Faux finish into thinking an object was one thing rather than another? No dog was ever fooled by a painting. Now, an odor?

But to us, seeing is believing.

We use drawings to communicate information and to clarify things all the time.

“I see” said the blind man, as he picked up his hammer and saw.

This dependence on sight is reflected in our language. Seeing is equated with truth, knowledge and understanding. “I see” we say when we understand. The word see and understand are synonyms. Most often when we use the word see, we are referring to knowledge rather than sight.

The light bulb goes off, the idea is illuminated, bringing it into the “light” and making it understandable.

This dependence on sight is what makes visual art so powerful and at times so controversial. We see it, we need to understand it. We are uncomfortable with art we don’t understand. It is subliminally threatening to us. So photo-realistic art can be comforting, reassuring to many viewers.

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