The illusions we carry with us
What is real and what is not, sometimes it’s hard to tell. In our fast-speed digital world, one of the objectives is to make illusions seem real. The more real the impression, the more money it may generate. This we can see in our movies and our games that we purchase. Billions of dollars are spent each year creating illusions. We shouldn’t be surprised when someone takes the world of illusion and moves it into reality.
Artists all through history have been working with illusions creating a visual world that really doesn’t exist except in the mind of the artist and then in the mind of the viewer. This can be readily seen in our churches and other places of worship. In order to worship God, many have to see a vivid interpretation of God. Even today, it is especially hard to find any place that does not have at least symbols of God as we try to understand who He is.
When I was a child about 14, I became close friends with a Polish priest whose church was just about one block from my home. At the time I was religiously affiliated with an Independent Baptist church so you might see the conflict my dad had with my new friend. This priest’s church was very beautiful inside with many statues of Mary, Christ and the Apostles. He explained that while the statues were just plaster, they had meaning to his people in the church. He said that most of them needed to see these objects of their beliefs because they were not strong enough with their faith to do without them even though they also knew they were plaster representations. Some fundamentalist churches look at this as idol worship. I never saw it that way even as a child. I saw the beauty of the imagery. I felt the warmth of the atmosphere. Yes, it was a created illusion, yes, in the end, it was only plaster and paint.
I am not saying that illusions are bad or good, they have the strong potential for both. In truth, we are totally surrounded by illusions. TV uses illusions every few minutes to sell an entire group of products. It seems most often to satisfy hunger, to make us more beautiful, smell more desirable, or a state of status a new car could give us. Illusions are promoted everywhere.
At one time, people believed what they saw, with the digital manipulation you can’t believe that anymore. It seems that our entire social system is built on illusions.
One illusion artists have been working with for thousands of years is creating the illusion of depth on a two dimensional surface. In his time, da Vinci used color and perspective relationships to create the illusion of depth and distance, and today, we still apply these same principals.
At one time, it used to be when we encountered something that didn’t seem to obey our rules of perceived reality we called it magic. Now we call it science and the romance of illusions is fading into our psychological background. Illusion is losing its romance.
I was sad when the moon that smiled upon me at night really didn’t have a face, just a heap of rocks and my cow will never be able to jump over it.
Harry Croghan is an artist, photographer, writer and teacher. You can send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org or call (740) 852-4906.