As I was looking at an album of digital photos I hadn’t seen in a while, I was a little surprised to be reminded of just how many photos I had taken of some very specific subjects. In this case, 1,050 photos of one sculpture, “Open Eyes”, by Don Gummer (email from him below). This sculpture was commissioned for the newly built Department of Ophthalmology building at Indiana University Medical Center. The building is just south of Riley Hospital for Children, where I work. The sculpture was installed August 2011, and is 18 feet tall, made of stainless steel and glass. One other thing to note about these photos is that the glass walls of the staircase of the building are made of optical quality glass, which often results in some nice colors and reflections.
But as the title suggests, what I’m wondering about isn’t really about the sculpture, but why I took so many photos of it, over such an extended period of time (a couple of years). Of course I was initially attracted to how the piece was composed and what it was supposed to represent. It quickly became apparent that what you saw changed dramatically as you moved around it. I was struck by how esthetically pleasing each of those different views was. It became a challenge to try to capture each of those views.
And particularly since the sculpture was about eyes and sight, and the use of colored glass, the interplay of light with the sculpture was revealed as important. So I began to go to the sculpture at different times of the day, which often meant going there on weekends, or very early in the morning. Similarly, since it was out in the weather elements, I became interested in seeing the interplay of the sculpture in the sun, rain and snow.
I decided what I was doing was trying to understand the sculpture as deeply as I could, and what it meant by exploring it visually from as many angles, and in as many different lighting and environmental situations as I could.
But again as the title suggests, this isn’t really about the sculpture. For a number of reasons, both personal and related to our current situations of injustices of all kinds, I’ve been thinking a lot more about what our purpose is in life. On the one hand I am encouraged by the return of interest in addressing injustice on the part of many young people, especially. At the same time it pains me to see the lack of spiritual foundation so many have to support their activism, and their own lives. It is difficult to find situations when others are open to talking about spiritual matters, and when it is possible, our language is so inadequate for doing so. One of my attempts to explain this in writing can be found here: Modern Quakers
One of the great things about art is that it is about whole different ways of communicating. As I was thinking through all of this about the sculpture photos, I realized what I was doing was similar to my spiritual practice of trying to understand about God and spiritual matters by examining my inner self from as many different angles, and lighting and environmental conditions as I can.
So maybe you could look through the “Open Eyes” photos with that in mind. Seeing how things change with different angles, light, composition, focus, color, contrast, etc. And then you might somehow translate some of that to looking deep within yourself, and examine what you find of your spirit there.
Here are the “Open Eyes” sculpture photos. http://1drv.ms/24jWhyi