In a gallery at the back of the Indianapolis Museum of Art I pause to simply stare out the window. I’m looking but, after an hour of wandering and gawking at some remarkable paintings, I’m seeing differently.
The world I see through the floor-to-ceiling glass feels somehow more relevant to me. My eyes continue to wander over the scene, theoretically not art, as if it were art.
Here is the muesum’s big back porch facing west. Here are the trees, the sky, the river down below. I become aware of countless visual decisions I’m making. What “gets” my attention through sheer force of color or shape? Where do my eyes want to go naturally? What is the interplay between designed and undesigned worlds?
I can quickly point at the art: Robert Indiana’s “Numbers”. A mother and her daughter weave an exploratory trail between these colorful and massive hunks of 1,2,3,4,5. If you were here sitting next to me I’d probably comment in a whisper about this. And you’d be able to make some interesting observation in response.
But the truth is that my eyes want to rest on the concrete squares beneath the art numbers. The day is overcast. It rained earlier this morning after weeks of dry weather. Most of the water has evaporated. A few spots of vapor thin puddles remain. And these little pockets of rainwater merge visually with the shadows made by Mr. Indiana’s sculptures. My eyes don’t need permission to put art’s shadows together with the remains of a storm.
Earlier I mentioned “you” and I introduced the idea that we might say something to one another if you were here now. In conversation, while we are out and about, we have a perfect opportunity to share a piece of what we notice, of where our eyes go when we let them.
This museum takes the “out and about” of artists and says take a peek at this and that – and here is a Rembrandt and a vanGogh for good measure. Many of the works here reveal an almost universal choice made by artists of all eras to visit and occupy underutilized spaces.
On wall after wall I detect somebody standing or sitting somewhere and looking at the world again and again. You can sense them waiting for their looking to turn into seeing. So it seems reasonable to wait a little while here with them adding our conversation as we see fit.