A friend of mine told me about a boyhood experience he had in the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania. A gas company was building a pipe-line near his home, and to do it they blasted away huge sections of rock. My friend spent hours wandering over the blasted area, looking at the freshly exposed landscape. “I was just a kid, not interested in art, but even I could recognize that it was beautiful. There were colors and patterns I couldn’t believe. It was as though great, brilliant abstract paintings had been hidden underground where only God could see them—until he showed them to me.”
That paralleled an experience of my own in reading The Invisible Made Visible by Ernst von Khuon. It is a large book of photographs—things never seen by the naked eye until some technique of science exposed them. Some were obvious, such as the back side of the moon. Others were more esoteric: the back of the human eye, or penicillin mold magnified 10,000 times, or a candle seen through a spectroscope.
I had difficulty knowing how to appreciate them. Obviously the photographs were more than information that a scientist would study as a commuter studies a train schedule. They were simply too beautiful for that. Eventually I found a way of looking at them that set me at ease and helped me see them clearly: I began to look at them as abstract paintings. And the more I looked, the more amazed I became.
For these weren’t ordinary abstracts. They were paintings that would, I’m sure, draw a crowd in any gallery. They weren’t of any one style or school, either. There were harsh, ragged cubes that looked as though they’d been sawed off the outer edge of the universe. There were fine, spidery webs of color, ...1
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