Is what we see a result of what we say?
I am very comfortable with the concept of interpretations -- i.e., we all take something slightly different away from our experiences with a work of art. I had not, on the other hand, ever considered the fact that each of us may actually be SEEING something different from the next person.
|Max Hirshfeld, “Looking at Looking #5” (2007)/Courtesy Hemphill|
Guy Deutscher argues just that in his fascinating New York Times article about the way language may shape the way we think and see. (Now, I know that the nature v. nurture question has enough shades of grey without throwing in linguistics, but this read is worth a little more muddling. You need to check it out. Seriously.) He draws so many jaw-dropping conclusions about the influence of language on thoughts around the globe. One of which is the assertion that we perceive colors through the filter of our native vocabulary. In his words:
"There are radical variations in the way languages carve up the spectrum of visible light; for example, green and blue are distinct colors in English but are considered shades of the same color in many languages. And it turns out that the colors that our language routinely obliges us to treat as distinct can refine our purely visual sensitivity to certain color differences in reality, so that our brains are trained to exaggerate the distance between shades of color if these have different names in our language. As strange as it may sound, our experience of a Chagall painting actually depends to some extent on whether our language has a word for blue. "
Another good reason not to cater your work to the tastes of others! You're probably not seeing the same thing anyway ;)