“Janus” (ca. 1985)
by Barry Windsor-Smith (1949-)
24 x 24 in., pastel on paper
I contacted the BWS site on this one.
“Your original is a 1980s chalk drawing that Mr. Windsor-Smith did for the pleasure of it and not for any distinct purpose.”
Happy 60th Birthday to Barry Windsor-Smith – perhaps the premiere contemporary artist who could have easily been part of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood.
I am a triple-lucky damned dog to have picked this up, many many! moons ago. A BWS original, in pastels, of a mythological sort of portrait. I have called this Janus, but it was untitled. And it is about 8000x more stunning in person. You may resume normal breathing.
Cognitive scientists and magicians have been getting together to try and understand just why some illusionists are so successful, and how that all works. The answer is appears to be absolutely fascinating. We all spend a great deal of time hallucinating.
Think of the data taken in by your eye in terms of a digital image. There is a highly pixelated area of rich data in a small area of focus. As you move away from the focal area to the periphery of your vision, the amount of actual information registered by your eye is limited. Shocking. Because when you look at the world, is all seems pretty evenly pixelated. And here’s the killer: your brain is filling in lots of information at the periphery of your focal area based on its past experiences with the world. You are hallucinating.
So when a magician pulls your attention with the right hand, it drops the left hand into your peripheral vision. If the magician then starts that hand along one physical path, your brain will literally fill in the rest based on past experience with motion, and you will see (that is “see”) the end result of that gesture, not because it happened, but because you brain fills it in. So by changing the motion of the left hand in mid-stream, it can become effectively invisible because your brain will see its invented left hand doing what its trajectory suggests.
Not convinced? Want some proof? Here you go (forget the goofy story about the curve ball and experience this in the context that I just described).
The Break of the Curve Ball
(2009 Best Illusion of the Year)
Arthur Shapiro, Zhong-Lin Lu, Emily Knight, & Robert Ennis
American University, University of Southern California, Dartmouth College, SUNY College of Optometry, USA
In our youth, we learn to cross the road with safety. We look both ways; we don’t walk out between parked cars; we cross at the crosswalks; we are cautious of following rogue chickens who step off the curb; in places like London, they even tell us which way we should look; and in Singapore, they are pretty insistent that we only cross where we are supposed to cross. But in Istanbul, a few years ago, I learned that there are other ways to cross the road. The Turkish people, you see, do not say “to cross the road.” They say “to throw oneself into the traffic.” I like that quite a bit in its broader metaphorical sense. Because if it is true, as Tom Cochrane says, that life is a highway, then throwing yourself into the traffic is definitely the way to go about it.