The Keen Eye of M.C. Escher

MC Escher Eye 1946

Eye (1946), Mezzotint.

I recently saw an exhibit of Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher at the North Carolina Museum of Art. The exhibit is well curated, with works from the artist’s early beginnings up to his last work of art.

It was fascinating to see the world through Mr. Escher’s keen perspective. His Italian period, still life work, depicts details and subtleties that seem almost impossible to be captured by the naked eye.  He captures and produces these visual moments in time without the use of any of the high resolution digital camera equipment and photography software of today. The work clearly required precision and a painstakingly steady hand.

M.C. Escher should perhaps even be considered the father of the “selfie” as my eight year old son referred to his favorite piece of the exhibit, shown below.

MC Escher Hand with Reflecting Sphere 1935
Hand with Reflecting Sphere (1935)

It is not always easy to look at oneself in a mirror and readily accept what one sees. I, for example, these days would like to see myself a few pounds lighter and showing less signs of wear. It will take hard work and diligence for me to achieve this healthier vision of me, a resolution topping my list this time of year for the next.

How we relate to pictures of ourselves is an interesting phenomenon. Think of all of the pictures we may have in a lifetime, candids, school pictures, significant events.  We may look back at an old picture and wince, wondering what we may have been thinking to think what we were wearing looked well on us. We may have pictures we are reluctant to look back at because the memories or longing they bring back may be too painful. Then, there are the pictures of ourselves we may really like because we look really good in those pictures but we may find ourselves feeling too self-conscious to say so. How lucky we are to be able to blur our self image across profile pics and Facebook or Instagram posts.

A mirror, it hardly ever lies.

It is much more difficult to look at our own image in a mirror, unless say one were Narcissus, but life did not fare so well for him. Life does not fare well. We do not look forward to the final farewell. We live so as to distract ourselves from our own finality. It is through that image in the mirror that we can see time pass. This passing of time is what makes us uncomfortable.

M.C. Esher’s Eye (1946) draws one in and makes it hard to look away.  You find yourself mesmerized.  For a moment, you can see what he sees. You can see what we are all afraid to see, our end, our perceived darkness. You look, close your eyes and look away.

You can view these works and other works of M.C. Escher at http://www.mcescher.com.