What you look for is what you see. If you expect to see something go wrong, you can be sure you will find things that go wrong, things to criticize or things below par. If you look for something hopeful, you will begin to see elements of hope or things that symbolize it all around. The lens through which we view the world is just that, a lens.
Change the lens, point it towards something else, magnify a different piece of the picture and you have an entirely different perspective, perhaps a whole different potential reality. That is what artists do. By focusing on different elements, highlighting different angles, artists offer new perspectives for all of us to explore. Through the Loudoun Artists’ Studio Tour we not only get to discover local talent, but many draw their inspiration from elements right here at home thus offering us a chance to see our own backdrops through a new lens. What a gift!
There is much talk in our world about the need to slow down, be mindful, be present. We drive the same roads each day and everything blurs together, days blur into weeks and weeks into months. Unless you take the time and have a practice of slowing down and becoming an observer, you might be one of those people who feel like days are just passing you by. But when you see something new, meet a new person, hear a new perspective, drive home a new route, travel to a new city…suddenly your whole energy shifts. Artists do this daily. They seek out the new. They look for the unseen perspective. They look to the moment, the color, the emotions to capture them and suspend time, to transport us out of the mundane and into the magnificent, the whimsical, and the emotional realms beyond the intellectual trappings of our minds. Artists help us all look beyond the surface. They help us change our lens.
All art can offer this, but getting a chance to step into an artist’s studio to see how and where they work, creates an intimacy between you, them, and the art. It’s as close to walking a mile in someone’s shoes as you can get. In my experience, talking to the artist about what inspired them or how they created this particular piece deepens my appreciation in every sense. Initially it might have just been an interesting birdhouse or a beautiful painting to me, but after hearing that each birdhouse was created for a person they knew who was going through cancer, or that this particular painting was made over the course of three years, every morning at sunrise, my lens shifts and I am suddenly there with them on their porch at sunrise, hearing the birds chirp and watching the colors change before my eyes. That sure slows me down and helps me appreciate the present moment! It also helps me see things I may not have seen before. After hearing the stories, I now watch the birds play in their birdhouse with more attention than I did before. I appreciate their song and I connect their sound to the people I love – it’s become a prayerful time for me. Meeting the artist definitely changed my lens and evoked a much deeper experience.
You do not have to be an artist to change your lens and your interaction with the world. Try this simple exercise: think of one person that you struggle with. Think of all the things you typically say and feel about them. Now, imagine this: what if this person is doing the best they can? What if they are just barely surviving every day due to difficulties they face in their life or inside their mind? What if you knew that each day they struggled just to get up or they live in a horrible situation and are doing their best? How does that change how you view them? Now picture the same person but change the lens again and this time, imagine they are your teacher. No matter what their age or place in your life, imagine that they have been placed here to teach you. What lesson(s) do you have to learn from them? How would you treat them if you viewed them as your teacher? Through this lens, what do you make of their actions now?
In our fast paced world it’s not easy to take the time to change the lens through which we look at people and circumstances, but I encourage you to try it with one person or through one piece of art this week and see what happens. Use the people and the art that surrounds us to drink in new possibilities for ourselves and for our world – this is what living an artful life is all about.