Starting with an examination of perception, a debut book strives to show how art and the creation of images are integral to humans.
At first, Corbin, an artist, ponders the minute distinctions in an artwork that lead to vast differences in how readers understand and perceive it. The author wants to explore these differences on a biological level, but points out the dilemma this creates in art history—how can beings so anatomically similar produce such disparate artistic styles and methods? There is also the question of how the structure of eyes and ears affects the signals they transmit to an individual, and how the mind chooses to interpret those messages. The author argues that humans create narratives, paint canvases, and mold sculptures in order to parse all of the surplus stimuli provided. People may differ on what they do with those stimuli, but reducing complexity according to some pattern is always the justification. Looking at art can then be viewed as an attempt to deconstruct or understand the artist’s style of perception, and in doing so, readers may actually find that expression more apt than their own. In this way, art can help viewers redefine themselves in light of another’s senses. Stories of Corbin’s own work, life, and inspirations appear mostly in traces throughout the absorbing book, although her passion for art is always clear. But the prose tends toward a casual informality, which can feel at odds with the subject matter and break the flow of the writing in an aggressive way (“Let’s talk about the color blue”). This is compounded by some redundancies in the account—the division between eyes’ rods and cones is discussed in three chapters. Still, the work is well-researched and the author makes use of the supporting material to great effect, allowing other voices to weigh in with captivating views of various periods and cultures.
An intriguing meditation on the power of art.