Enormous public trompe l’oeils delight me. I admire the bravado, the precision and adaptability required to pull off a painting hundred, even tens of thousands of feet square across uneven and degraded surfaces exposed to the elements, in front of onlookers. I admire the collaborative spirit and the patience it takes to rally the cooperation of a supportive public and to woo the approval, too, of elected officials, appointed municipal bureaucrats and union street sweepers. All that support for a vision, a dream, an ephemerality that often lasts only until the next good downpour!
I admire it all from afar, as a jpeg on my computer screen. I have not yet had the opportunity to stand at that one fixed spot at which the perspective of such an undertaking all makes perfect visual sense, where all the receding angles line up to convince the eye that the pavement underfoot has given way to a canyon, a sea, a topsy-turvy view of the sky.
Still, these brave artists reach me, teach me, touch me through the unimaginable complexity of human community, through the miracle of intelligence broken down into and reassembled from electronic impulses, digitized and pixelated time and again as they are shared, liked, tweeted, pinned, blogged and reblogged.
I stand in awe of us.
I stand connected, overwhelmed, bombarded and alone, in my fixed location, from my singular point of view. For one fleeting moment, until I click away, I share that point of view with a camera in Amsterdam, Venice, Dallas, Walla Walla, Brisbane or Tunis.
I find that I am capable—through the miracle of thought broken down into and reassembled from the vibrations of vocal chords, tongue clicks and glottal stops translated into squiggled symbols and transmitted across time and space, language and culture, we are all capable—of sharing the points of view of strangers raised and educated in ways we do not fathom. For a moment, at least, if I stand just so, at one fixed location on a whirling planet amid a dizzying billions of galaxies, I get to see and understand the complexity of another human being’s vision as it snaps into place for me.
If I shift one foot to the left or right, I begin to see discrepancies that disillusion the eye. If I stand aside, I do not understand the vision at all. Truthfully, I don’t even have to move. I can do that with the mind, holding the “reality” of the literal environment and the “illusion” of the painting together simultaneously.
And I can begin to learn from that experience a little of what it means to see the world from points of view I’ve never clung to as my own. I stand connected and corrected, as one of a community of billions, even as the world appears to crumble underfoot and leave me stranded, because I can hold in mind that human isolation, too, is just a trick of perspective.