Through the "Eye" of Paul Klee

"1914" - Paul Klee

I’ve always been inspired by my mom’s love of art and her endless pursuit to find work in the arts. After she found a job in New York as an art dealer for a small SoHo gallery, she took me to an art museum for the first time in my life. I was 10 years old and I didn’t realize it then, but the museum is one of the greatest in the world – the New York Museum of Modern Art. We spent hours that day roaming the cavernous halls of paintings, drawings and sculptures, but of all the work I saw, there was one artist that resonated with me deeply. Until this day, the images of this artist remain burned in the retina of my mind’s eye. This artist is the great Paul Klee.

Part of the reason Klee’s work struck such a deep chord in me was because I could relate to his sense of line, form and design. The thick black outlines that Klee used in his forms gave his shapes a bold quality that I found aesthetically pleasing. The strength of his line work was balanced by the evocative color tones that slipped in and out beneath the graphic quality of his strokes. Fundamentally, his art seemed to mimic design, but it also played with my sense of music, nature, philosophy and poetry. I remember thinking that his artwork seemed neither abstract nor entirely figurative and this intrigued me.
Even at such a young age, I was surprised that Klee’s drawings and paintings appeared childlike, but were also mature and sophisticated. His images were primitive and tribal, but yet contemporary. It was also apparent that Klee was playing with symbols and leveraging references to Egyptian hieroglyphs that I had seen in school. His stylized and symbolic references were so direct and reminiscent that they hit me squarely in the gut. So much so, that I thought the images were speaking directly to my core and possibly activating memories of past lives.
One reoccurring symbol in Klee’s work that resonated with me later in life was the “All seeing eye” or “The Eye of Horus.” In fact, in some paintings, Klee used this symbol almost exactly as it appears in ancient Egyptian artwork and on the back of the American dollar bill. Based on my understanding of Klee’s support of German Transcendentalism I believe that Klee referenced this symbol in his work so the viewer might consider their inner vision. Klee is bringing us into close proximity with the all-seeing eye so we reflect for a moment on our spiritual sight, our higher knowledge and our relationship to the Supreme Being. Art critic, Robert Hughes writes in his book, The Shock of the New, “The monument of Klee’s obsession with metaphysics was a singular book, The Thinking Eye… (which is) one of the most detailed manuals on the “science” of design… (and) spiritual truth.”

I’ve come to appreciate the deeper meaning behind Klee’s work. I’ve also learned what a profound impact his work had on my life. It is possible that I found Klee’s work, but it is also equally possible that his work found me. To this point Paul Klee states that, “Art does not reproduce the visible; rather, it makes visible.” I have looked into the eyes of Klee’s painting and found this simple truth reoccur in my life and in my art.

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