Most of us have heard the idiom: "Eyes are like windows onto the soul…" This strikes me as very true. When we sit with a person and really talk with them, share deeply, we get a lot of messages from the eyes. Even starting with whether or not our companion can make eye contact, we are getting information. Sometimes someone is staring right at us, but we know those eyes are shut off. And then there are those moments when a complete thought or emotion is transmitted through the eyes. Then it's not a message as much as a feeling, and no words are needed.
Tonight I am contemplating windows as portals. I started painting windows when I first began painting in Carol Gardens, Brooklyn, in the 1990's. Here is one of my early paintings (in a private collection; wish I had a better image):
And another— one of my many self portraits at this time, using the window as a focal point:
There was almost always a window in these early works, and later, an entire series of just windows. I remember walking around Long Island and Block Island one summer taking hundreds of pictures of windows. I was fascinated by how the reflections obfuscated any glimpse inside. These were like "eyes wide shut." And yet, just painting their impervious surfaces put me in touch with another world within myself.
My preoccupation with windows as a concept gave way to other interests once I enrolled in art school, but there was still usually one in the background, as a framing device. When I got a studio at the Art Factory, the 1840's factory windows there—so many and so unique— renewed my love of these mysterious architectural structures. A window is a portal from one space to another. It's a membrane, like an amniotic sac, that separates one world from another. It's a transitional space, when it is open, as when Juliet can hear Romeo's calls and answer him back, from inside her room.
At my first space on Totowa Avenue, there is a green house across the street. Singular on the block in its Victorian style, this house shows its presence strongly. I took a picture of if from the studio window. I began to fantasize about the occupants. There were signs on the door: "no trespassing" and "beware of dog". Sometimes there were children's backpacks left on the porch. But what was the most interesting was to gaze out this studio window and feel both connected and shut off from the life I was imagining:
Now I realize that I've taken these pictures from out all my studio windows at the Art Factory. The pictures are at once subjective and objective. The window itself demarcates the world I see from the world I occupy. The muntins create a frame around the view. And they create a barricade from interaction. And they invite rumination and imaginings about what I cannot reach out and touch. And yet, I can open them… Portals onto another part of consciousness, portals onto another world, portals of possibility.