Touching art : intimacy, embodiment, and the somatosensory system

Esrock, Ellen J.

"Imagine you are standing in an art museum, mesmerized by an enormous
canvas of turbulent paint. Though you find no recognizable images, you are
fascinated by the swirling movements of rich azures and cobalt blues. Your eyes
follow the artist’s long, energetic brush strokes across the work, and you feel a
sense of motion inside your body. Suddenly, your attention is caught by a small
area of densely applied paint—a deep crimson. You linger. The thick color
glows. As your awareness of the surroundings dim, the bright spot on the
canvas expands, and the sensuous color seems to flow into you. You are
immersed. Instants later, the bond breaks, as your attention shifts to a nearby
What a viewer is experiencing in such moments of immersion is a shift in the
ordinary sense of one’s bodily boundaries. For an instant, viewer and art work
seem to merge."



More About This Work

Academic Units
Italian Academy
Italian Academy for Advanced Studies in America, Columbia University
Italian Academy Fellows' Seminar Working Papers
Published Here
March 31, 2011