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Living in Three Dimensions

Another beautiful account from Susan Fisher from the Mystic Museum of Art.  I hope you enjoy it.


One of the many surprises about emerging from the COVID lockdown is how busy we all are. When I have time to be shocked and surprised, I am shocked and surprised by the sensation of living inside a snow globe that has just been shaken like a pair of maracas.

I had foolishly, fondly imagined going from lockdown to step one, which would lead to step two, which would lead to step three, etc…

COVID directional arrow from the floor of MMoA’s Davis Gallery, now on the wall of my office as a bit of ephemera. May it never have to go on the floor again.

Instead, we went from lockdown to step one, which flowered into a 360-degree spread of other possibilities (many of them wonderful) and then they all flowered into further possibilities…

Harvey K. Fuller (1918-2017), Summer Meadow, 1980. Oil on board. MMoA permanent collection. Donated by Harvey K. Fuller.

It’s not a simple matter, adding a second dimension to your world. The scope of new possibilities can be alarming, but it is definitely stunning.

Now, imagine adding a third dimension. Most of us, most of the time, live within six or seven feet of ground we stand on. For apartment dwellers or office workers, the “ground” may be on the umpteenth floor of a building, but the principle is the same. We move around the points of a compass, not a sphere*. But what if you were a bird or a whale?

I recently went whale watching for the first time. When a humpback whale hove into view, a collective sigh went up from all decks of the boat and when her calf showed up, our souls simply left our bodies to go out to them: magnificent, mysterious creatures, propelling themselves through vast pelagic depths with movements so graceful they seem like slow motion, singing to others of their kind thousands of miles away, entirely suited to three-dimensions in a world we can only explore, unaided, in two.

Humpback whales can dive down to 650 feet and stay under for approximately 30 minutes.

Unlike the fears we learn, the fear of falling (basophobia) is innate in humans as in most other mammals. We fear great depths and great heights. Iconic narratives such as Icarus flying too near the sun, or Moby Dick taking Ahab down into the sea, reveal the horror and mystery we attribute to vast spaces. But what if we didn’t have to? What flowering of possibilities might flow? What perspectives might we gain if we lived weightless in the air, or secure in the water?

We can only imagine what we could do or be, without fear. We can exercise the primary function of art: lowering the barriers to new experiences. It is a safe, accessible, and invaluable practice of freedom, a challenge to exercise breadth of mind. The environmental movement, for example, gained its broad base of support when people first saw photos of the Earth, taken from space. Whether by looking at art or by making it, we gain a whole new dimension of experience and empathy.

Another dimension, of course, is time. Exhibitions Manager Amelia Onorato explores MMoA over time in the current exhibition: The Founders: Reclaiming Mystic’s Artistic Roots. Time also comes into play in the Visiting Artists’ Gallery she designed in the Terrace Gallery, inviting visitors of all ages to linger and respond to the exhibition in writing, drawing, or simply looking at what other visitors have written and drawn. Here is what one recent visitor had to say, in social media:

I am so grateful for this message and for these images. I’m delighted to see that the whole multi-dimensional engagement with art is happening right here in our galleries and studios. It is so right that what we may consider little is actually really big.

With fondest regards,
Susan Fisher