Looking at/being the world differently

View from Mulfra Quoit, 10" x 28"

View from Mulfra Quoit, 10" x 28"

Lately I have been thinking about the different ways people and cultures perceive and/or experience their environment. Turns out that my view of the world is not the only one, and it may not even be accurate or useful. It didn't surprise me to learn that I was ignorant. But it did blow my mind a bit to look around the edges of my assumptions.

It started at a recent talk given by artist Jaune Quick-to-see Smith at Portland Community College's annual Women in Art Lecture. She spent most of her presentation showing images of other Native artists. One thing she wanted us to notice was that the artists without European art training did not put a horizon line in their work. The reason is that for Native people the world is one united thing and not separated into earth and sky. Hence no need for a line. I imagine they can see that solid earth has a different quality than air and sky, but they are still all the same. After that lecture, all I could see was horizon lines in artwork.

I also heard a similar message from another Native person, who explained that Native people don't see themselves as separate from the planet. In fact, they are completely one with the earth and sky and everything and maybe the whole universe. The whole idea of human beings being given dominion over the earth is foreign, something made up and promoted by Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.  Ouch! That one is hard to swallow. No wonder we (European culture) need an environmental movement to remind us to not harm the planet. If we looked at the world the way indigenous people do, it wouldn't occur to us to place profit over the health of the earth.

But getting back to art. I am not a native person; my ancestors have been colonizing and immigrating for thousands of years. I will no doubt continue to place horizon lines in my paintings since my world view includes a horizon line. The difference is that now I will know why I am including that line.