The Art of Possibility

Mindset is everything. If you see problems as, for example, impenetrable brick walls, then they will be. You would not even think there is a possible solution. If, on the other hand, you see problems as exciting challenges just waiting to be solved, then you will start thinking of possible solutions right away without skipping a beat. The way you see things dictates how you react to them.

It sounds simple, but creating a positive mindset is a complex product of the environment you grew up in. Years and years of observing others, having experiences and processing reactions from those around you, shape how you see the world. Many small moments build our mindset over time.

An example from my own life shows that experience changes mindset. At the age of 19, camping in the Australian desert, I woke in the night to empty my bladder and as I left my tent I was mesmerized by something I had never even thought could have existed- A moon set. The full moon was slowly disappearing at the horizon and a shimmering line of light was reflecting off the desert as it does on the surface of the water. “A moon set!” I thought, “Wow”. My whole life, the moon had just disappeared behind the trees or a building. This was my first time in the desert. It was not in my realm of experience to even imagine that this beautiful thing was possible. Now I see a world where a moon set is possible.

The driving force behind this blog is the idea that the arts are an essential part of our culture. There are many reasons for this, but I think one of the most important is that learning in the arts creates a mindset of possibility. Engaging in the arts opens our minds up to things we did not know were possible.

I remember an important moment in art history class in university, when I was told that there was a time in human history when we did not create drawings in 3D perspective. For example, Egyptian paintings always show the face and feet in profile, even if the chest is facing forward. Some say that the art of perspective drawing had not yet been discovered. Others postulate that it was because we actually did not see the world in 3 dimensions.

This theory seemed unbelievable to me at the time, but when I thought about it, I was reminded of those visual mind tricks, like the image above, where you are presented with an image composed of dots and blogs and asked what you see. “A bunch of dots” you say, but when someone points out to you that there could be the face of a cow, suddenly the cow pops out at you, you see that it was always there. And now you cannot look at the image without seeing the cow. Your perspective has changed and now you see the world differently – in 3 dimensions.

In art school these moments happened to me all the time. Some of these moments occurred when I saw the art work of others, but mostly it was during the creation of my own pieces, where my mindset of possibility developed. The slow expansion of what I believed to be possible resulted from the practice of turning concepts into objects – imagining something and then creating it. Practicing bringing form to ideas, over and over again.

I once made a binocular kaleidoscope, just to see if it was possible, just to see if your eyes would blend the two images created, as it does in a microscope, forming one image. In another class, I remember proposing a project to a professor and being shocked that she agreed to let me do it. I wanted to create a 6-foot high steel egg with a hinged door so you could go inside when the world was to much for you. Return to the egg, if you will. After several months of encountering issues, making mistakes, solving problems, I finished the basic frame including the door. I remember stepping back and thinking, “Wow, I can really do this, it is possible.”

These experiences forged my own mindset of possibility. I believe that things are possible because, I have experienced them, and done the work to make them come to life. In my career, when facing an issue, my mind automatically jumps to the questions, “How can we solve this?” “What are the other ways of making this happen?” When teaching, I intentionally pass this on to children. I believe in their ideas and help them find a way to make them happen. I work to ensure they will be successful, in order to build their bank of experience that proves that if you work hard at something, it is possible.