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ART TIMES June, 2006

“Your work adds windows wherever they hang” — so wrote a visitor in the guest book at my recent solo show at the Woodstock Artists Association. Certainly not a new idea, but one that bears another hearing, another close consideration. The concept of a picture frame “standing in” for the frame of a window is at least as old as the Italian Renaissance, and artists have for long been capitalizing on the conceit as they’ve endeavored to urge you to “take a look.” With the refinement of the rules of linear and aerial perspective, many have become quite adept at providing the illusion of “staring off into space” through the use of the frame convention. The rise of modernistic practices of non-representational painting has put somewhat of a crimp in this particular sleight-of-hand — if not, indeed, rendered it somewhat passé for our present-day blasé viewers — but the near-magical trick of providing a window into a real or imagined space — if not another dimension — has never quite lost its stunning effect on the human imagination. That is, when we take the time to stand back and relinquish some of that “cool” brand of lassitude we affect when we try to appear “in the know.” I had one of those little moments of sudden awareness the other night while reading in bed. I had paused in mid-paragraph to savor one of the author’s thoughts and let my eyes and mind drift off into space. When I glanced back at the page and immediately found where I had left off, it struck me how extraordinary the event was. Literacy, of course, leads to its own form of blasé behavior (we take it so for granted), but to be able to turn our attention — either away or toward — a page of written text and be instantly taken to a completely different realm in the space of an instant is nothing short of miraculous — again, once you get past the rote familiarity of doing it time and again. Emily Dickinson once pointed out that there is no frigate like a book, and how down-home and utterly true that statement is (like so many other of her astute observations). Books, as we know, are also “framed” and can just as easily (and magically) open up new worlds to us. All we need do — as they say in the world of drama (whose convention of the invisible “fourth” wall is, again, just one more frame) — is suspend our disbelief. Music, of course, provides its own peculiar “frames” through which we might pass — see Lisa Marie Wersal’s ‘Speak Out” in this issue for a special case in point. Mankind has long been enchanted by stories in which a secret “door” (or cave, or tear in space, or time warp, or whatever) leads to another world/time/dimension. Well, folks, they not only occur in exotic tales, but also exist in everyday life. Simply let yourself “pass through” the next time you look at a painting, read a book, or watch a play. Thank you to Professor Peggy Winters — the lady who wrote those words which open this essay — for reminding us of the never-ending store of magic which surrounds us every day.

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