Eyes in the Heat

7:00 AM

Jackson Pollock, Eyes in the Heat, 1946

When I was in the fourth grade and still believed in magic, my friend Emma and I decided God had given us special powers -- a certain clairvoyance, a capacity for truth -- which would enable us to save the world. We did not know what, exactly, we were to save the world from, but this seemed irrelevant at the time. We felt important, and thus we were happy. The evidence was everywhere. First there was the large stick from the playground -- creatively dubbed "The Stick" -- which appeared to be covered with ancient hieroglyphs. I still remember those meaningless squiggles. They were uncommonly beautiful. Next there was the wind in the grass, which I thought nothing of until Emma convinced me each ripple was really the footstep of an angel. Her mother had told her this, and Emma's mom was my English teacher, so of course I trusted them both. But I would not have believed as strongly in our game as I did if it hadn't been for the eyes. One Wednesday afternoon when we were looking for God, Emma pointed at the sky and said, "It's Him! He's watching us!"

I had no idea what she was talking about, so she pulled me closer and aligned my gaze with her finger. One of the clouds was not a cloud. It was a gigantic eye made of cloud-bits. Thus began the strangest and most glorious phase of our self-aggrandizing fanaticism. We saw eyes everywhere. I especially recall how we scoured the bricks on the back of the school with the palms of our hands, feeling for little craters, which we always found. We were ecstatic, waiting for a message that never came; we said that God was "everywhere and nowhere at all," our first foray into philosophy. Then it ended. I do not know when, or even if, I stopped believing in God, but a creeping sense of shame told me the game itself was fake, like the feeling you get when you first contemplate the impossibility of Santa Claus. Emma and I grew apart. We turned to books and love for answers, with varying degrees of success. (My first crush is now-- horrifyingly-- a senior at Pembroke.) Even the allure of our favorite stories and hopeless romances paled in comparison to our self-imposed holiness. This is why I have chosen Jackson Pollock's Eyes in the Heat-- because it brings back all the mystery and excitement of when Emma and I went looking for God on the playground.

Pollock toys with the mind's tendency to seek out facial features. We naturally detect faces on the fronts of cars and in outlets for three-pronged plugs; here, we find eyes in vague, loping ellipses.
Is it Prozac, or is the world a really happy place right now?
Some shapes in Eyes in the Heat are clearly more eye-like that others, and once the mind is primed, we find new eyes in the slightest indications of roundness. Even knowing the title changes what the viewer finds; I would like to have two people look at this painting for twenty seconds-- telling only one person the title-- and then ask them what they saw. Eyes in the Heat shows how truly arbitrary artistic meaning can be and emphasizes the importance of the subconscious and the power of belief in our everyday quest for truth.

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