Details — what we see when we slow down and look closely

I always find it a thrill to see art of many types on visits to museums, galleries, and performances (both near home and when I travel). Happily, my senses have been rewarded in amazing ways the last few months. Culture in Boston is so exciting these days that it’s hard to get to seeing everything one hears about before an exhibition closes or a performance is sold out. But I see as much as I can, and on recent travels the opportunities for enrichment and inspiration have been similarly abundant.

What has been especially interesting to me has been noticing details. When I enter a large gallery and taken in the vista of work on view, I then move to observe the individual pieces. Finally, I take a close look at the surfaces and forms of the art. It’s then that I realize how much there is to see and consider about the creation. These are details we typically miss unless we take the time to slow down and observe closely. And those observations can reveal so much more than our impressions from a few feet back.

What might appear at first to be a simple, solid field of color on a canvas delivers intriguing texture and thoughtfulness about what the artist intended, when you take that close look and think about what you are seeing. A busy field of splattered paint on a Jackson Pollock canvas reveals pattern and color interplay that would be missed without a closer look.

The examples are many. In every case, a closer inspection adds to my insights and responses to the art. Similarly, when I saw the Mark Morris Dance Company perform last week, and carefully pondered the selections of music as well as the dance forms, I had a deeper response to the works. The sweep of impressions can be wonderful, and still, focusing in on details enriches us in new ways.

In our day-to-day lives there are also great insights and things to be seen and felt deeply, when we slow down and observe details with care. Think about driving down a street. We never see as much as when we walk that street. The forms of flowers in a garden, the architectural moments on the edge of a roofline, the way the colors of the facade look in a slant of light, are all part of a blur if we only drive and never take a thoughtful walk, with stops along the way to observe and consider small details.

To be observant in that way, we must take a look at how much we rush through our lives. For many people, the days are so over-scheduled that going slow is hard to imagine. Yet when we do slow down and look closely, what we observe can inspire us in surprising and wonderful ways. It can open our eyes to possibilities or suggest ideas for completely unrelated projects. We are stimulated deeply and can connect that energy to any aspect of our lives.

In our work, and in all of our relationships, the principles can be applied. Much as in a gallery, it takes a bit more time to look for and take in the details and to apply the observations. But when you do the results can be profound. Having deeper, more thoughtful conversations can reap amazing rewards. The details that emerge can be the most valuable when formulating decisions for our next steps. At the office, you might find yourself incorporating more insights into a report or proposal that can elevate your work to new heights.

In our ever-rushed world, there are fabulous opportunities for us when we make a habit of taking the time to take in the details all around us. We can use those observations, those "aha" insights, to enrich our lives — and our world.

What will you see today, when you slow down and take a closer look?

THIS REMARKABLE LARGE TAPESTRY THAT I SAW IN THE COOPER HEWITT MUSEUM IN NEW YORK WAS DESIGNED BY DANISH ARTIST GRETHE SORENSON. WHEN SEEN UP CLOSE, YOU CAN APPRECIATE THE AMAZING WEAVING TECHNIQUE THAT CAPTURES FILM IMAGES SHOT AT NIGHT BY HER HUSBAND, BO HOGVAARD. THE GRADATIONS OF COLOR ARE CREATED USING THREAD "PIXELS" OF RED, GREEN, BLUE, CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE. THE RESULT IS AN ALMOST PHOTO-REALISTIC REPRODUCTION OF THE IMAGE. 

THIS REMARKABLE LARGE TAPESTRY THAT I SAW IN THE COOPER HEWITT MUSEUM IN NEW YORK WAS DESIGNED BY DANISH ARTIST GRETHE SORENSON. WHEN SEEN UP CLOSE, YOU CAN APPRECIATE THE AMAZING WEAVING TECHNIQUE THAT CAPTURES FILM IMAGES SHOT AT NIGHT BY HER HUSBAND, BO HOGVAARD. THE GRADATIONS OF COLOR ARE CREATED USING THREAD "PIXELS" OF RED, GREEN, BLUE, CYAN, MAGENTA, YELLOW, BLACK AND WHITE. THE RESULT IS AN ALMOST PHOTO-REALISTIC REPRODUCTION OF THE IMAGE. 

JASPER JOHNS' "FLAG", AT MOMA NEW YORK IS AN ICONIC WORK, BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE LOOKED CLOSELY TO SEE THE AMAZING TEXTURES AND DETAILS OF NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS EMBEDDED IN THICK ENCAUSTIC PAINT THAT WERE LAYERED ONTO PLYWOOD — OR CONSIDERED THE MEANING IN JOHNS' APPROACH TO CREATING THIS WORK?

JASPER JOHNS' "FLAG", AT MOMA NEW YORK IS AN ICONIC WORK, BUT HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE LOOKED CLOSELY TO SEE THE AMAZING TEXTURES AND DETAILS OF NEWSPAPER CLIPPINGS EMBEDDED IN THICK ENCAUSTIC PAINT THAT WERE LAYERED ONTO PLYWOOD — OR CONSIDERED THE MEANING IN JOHNS' APPROACH TO CREATING THIS WORK?

SHANIQUE SMITH HAS A REMARKABLE BODY OF WORK ON EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS IN BOSTON, TITLED "BRIGHT MATTER". THIS MIXED MEDIA WORK, "SPLENDID", WAS DONE WITH INK, ACRYLIC, FABRIC AND PAPER COLLAGE, RIBBON, YARN AND FOUND OBJECTS, MOUNTED ON A WOOD PANEL. THE IMAPCT IS FANTASTIC WHEN YOU FIRST APPROACH THE WORK, BUT BECOMES EVER MORE FASCINATING WHEN YOU LOOK CLOSELY AT THE DETAILS AND DIMENSIONAL LAYERED ELEMENTS.

SHANIQUE SMITH HAS A REMARKABLE BODY OF WORK ON EXHIBIT AT THE MUSEUM OF FINE ARTS IN BOSTON, TITLED "BRIGHT MATTER". THIS MIXED MEDIA WORK, "SPLENDID", WAS DONE WITH INK, ACRYLIC, FABRIC AND PAPER COLLAGE, RIBBON, YARN AND FOUND OBJECTS, MOUNTED ON A WOOD PANEL. THE IMAPCT IS FANTASTIC WHEN YOU FIRST APPROACH THE WORK, BUT BECOMES EVER MORE FASCINATING WHEN YOU LOOK CLOSELY AT THE DETAILS AND DIMENSIONAL LAYERED ELEMENTS.

THIS PAINTING, BY ROBERT RYNAM AT MOMA IN NEW YORK, AT FIRST APPEARS TO BE A SOLID WHITE CANVAS. WHEN THE OIL ON COTTON SURFACE IS OBSERVED CLOSELY, YOU CAN SEE THE ATTENTION TO TEXTURE AND EDGE THAT THE ARTIST EXPLORED. HE PAINTED "TWIN" WITH THICK PAINT AND STOPPED BEFORE REACHING THE EDGE OF THE CANVAS ON EACH SIDE. THE RAW CANVAS AND EDGE QUALITY TO THE PAINT GIVES THE IMPRESSION OF IT BEING A PIECE OF ROUGH-EDGED CLOTH GLUED ONTO THE SURFACE. RYMAN WAS FASCINATED BY THE TACTILE SURFACE OF PAINT AND RIGOROUSLY EXPLORE MANY EFFECTS BY USING ONLY WHITE PIGMENT ON SQUARE CANVASES.

THIS PAINTING, BY ROBERT RYNAM AT MOMA IN NEW YORK, AT FIRST APPEARS TO BE A SOLID WHITE CANVAS. WHEN THE OIL ON COTTON SURFACE IS OBSERVED CLOSELY, YOU CAN SEE THE ATTENTION TO TEXTURE AND EDGE THAT THE ARTIST EXPLORED. HE PAINTED "TWIN" WITH THICK PAINT AND STOPPED BEFORE REACHING THE EDGE OF THE CANVAS ON EACH SIDE. THE RAW CANVAS AND EDGE QUALITY TO THE PAINT GIVES THE IMPRESSION OF IT BEING A PIECE OF ROUGH-EDGED CLOTH GLUED ONTO THE SURFACE. RYMAN WAS FASCINATED BY THE TACTILE SURFACE OF PAINT AND RIGOROUSLY EXPLORE MANY EFFECTS BY USING ONLY WHITE PIGMENT ON SQUARE CANVASES.