Art and Attention

On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction by Brian Boyd I read On the Origins of Stories this winter and am about to start it again. I highly recommend this book and found that it helped me connect my fascination with cognition and language with my obsession with visual art in an expanded way.ย  Here's my take-away: Art is about competing for and holding viewers' attention. An artist's goal is to engage an audience and then provide ongoing visual challenge. My work is essentially metacognitive in approach. A preliminary aesthetic connection opens the way for viewer engagement. Encoded conceptual content serves to maintain viewersโ€™ attention across time. Visual art is a powerful or 'hypernormal' visual stimulus that encourages cognitive play and engagement. Thinking beyond what we can see, exploring the world of the possible changes the brain and is potentially critical to adult life. In this way, I see my visual art as being very parallel to my clinical work as a speech-language pathologist.

My thinking on this goes a step further to argue that mosaics in particular have the potential to be an extremely powerful medium. Reflectivity and intense color saturation, literal depth and extreme contrasts, the inherent incorporation of light as an element all make this medium ideally suited to capture visual attention. The question that I constantly required myself to be clear about as a clinician ("why am I doing what I'm doing?") seems equally valid when using this powerful visual medium.