Friday, October 26, 2018

Collective Blindness

Margaret Talbot, in the New Yorker:
The Myth of Whiteness in Classical Sculpture
Greek and Roman statues were often painted, but assumptions about race and aesthetics have suppressed this truth. Now scholars are making a color correction.

Brinkmann soon realized that his discovery hardly required a special lamp: if you were looking at an ancient Greek or Roman sculpture up close, some of the pigment “was easy to see, even with the naked eye.” Westerners had been engaged in an act of collective blindness. “It turns out that vision is heavily subjective,” he told me. “You need to transform your eye into an objective tool in order to overcome this powerful imprint”—a tendency to equate whiteness with beauty, taste, and classical ideals, and to see color as alien, sensual, and garish.

Balu’s “The Heathen in His Blindness” is about a more difficult to discern collective blindness.