I have become really interested in the ineffable in visual — both as a concept and as the ineffable itself. This is due to my being about to see and experience things in artworks to a such a high degree after studying art for fifty years. Maybe I’m slow, but I do sense that what is revealing itself to me is something I’ve achieved. I had a writing gig once that involved selecting artists sixty-five years of age or older and interviewing them. I asked each of them what they knew that they didn’t know when they started making art, and to a person they responded with some variant of realizing they knew nothing. I think the same thing applies to responding to art — that it’s possible to reside in understanding and break through to something not translatable into words, something transcendent.
We seem to agree that the mind/body dualism has had its day, but in the oneness and continuity of mind and body, that which we ascribe to mind can affect the body. This can be a framing of a physical experience or it can be a physical change in the body. If I sat in a chair once and was pushed over by a bully, I might have a different sensation upon seeing a chair than if I once had hot, mad sex in a chair. Emotion isn't something "raw" but an entanglement and learned. The relation of any individual and the physical world may be governed by universal principles but our experience of that relation is far more complicated. Then what do we do when we live in a society that is reductive, needs docile bodies, offers the “quick fix.” Maybe it’s a matter of recognizing the role that art has in teaching us how to feel, to experience being-in-the-world.
We now have access to a great body of works that we can view without attachment to their belief system or doctrine. As an independent art historian, I no longer am attached to the timeline that is typically taught, and I avail myself of how much art is now available online, delighting in artworks that speak to me as artworks. I can’t help but be taken by the limitless variety of what we have been able to come up with essentially are somewhat limited physical materials. One word that hasn’t come up yet in our discussion is “imagination,” and I would like to make that the power of imagination. If we want to consider art in its spiritual or ethical dimension, we are looking to art as something that allows us to experience something larger or greater than ourselves. How do we go through ourselves to get to something other or at least the not-I (to reference Fichte)? Rather than just the physical presence of artworks, there is a will to create that courses through the history of art that brings us with something touching on the divine.