Face The Facts

I was fortunate to get to attend the 12×12 Art Fundraiser benefitting the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition (OVAC) with some dear friends. For 12×12, 175 artists create works that conform to the dimensions of twelve-by-twelve inches. Many of the artists were in attendance and we got to meet and talk to several of them. I also had the pleasure of talking to Krystle Brewer, The Executive Director of OVAC. She had heard about the AAA project and was really excited to talk about what we are doing at Kimray. We also bought some really cool art.

In talking about the art show with my friends, an interesting thought surfaced. The artists in this show have widely ranging styles and formats. For many of them a typical piece is much larger than a square foot. Often an artist has complete freedom to work in the format and size they want, but in this show, they had to distill their intent into a 12×12 format. Creating art is a very revealing and vulnerable effort. Viewing art gives us an opportunity to “see” the artist and the way the artist sees the world around them. Art is also a way for the artist to influence the viewer.

What would you put on a 12×12 piece of paper or canvas to influence the world around you?

Don’t you do this every day on your face?

Whether it’s a sweet-as-syrup smile meant to talk your friend out of part of their dessert, or a seriously stern frown meant to adjust the attitude of a kid throwing a tantrum, we all use our faces to get our way (which is a type of influence.)

The expressions we make with our faces are mostly not about our feelings, they are about our intentions. Alan J. Fridlund, an associate professor in the Department of Psychology and Brain Sciences at UC Santa Barbara has conducted innovative research on the meaning of facial expressions. His new paper, “Facial Displays Are Tools for Social Influence,” co-authored with British researcher Carlos Crivelli, makes exactly that case.

“The traditional view of our facial expressions is that they’re about our moods and emotions,” Fridlund said. “Our faces are not about our feelings, but about where we want a social interaction to go.” says Fridlund. In other words, we are attempting to influence the people around us with our facial expressions. This behavior is amoral for the most part, however, our intentions are not.

“Everytime you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing.” – Mother Teresa

How we interact with others impacts both parties. We each have the ability to give the gift of love and acceptance to others, and in doing so we also improve our own health and well-being. Studies have shown that being kind to others releases serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. These chemicals are responsible for feelings of wellbeing, reduced anxiety and stress, less illness, and longer life.

At the 12×12 Art Show, there were two options for acquiring a particular piece. There was a ‘buy it now” option where you could, well, buy it now. The other option was to place a silent and sealed bid and wait for the end of the show to see if you were the high bidder. If someone wanted a piece badly enough, they would simply pay the buy it now price and it would be theirs. Artists whose pieces were bought early knew they had connected with someone in an impactful and important way.

We are transmitting our intentions constantly through the media of our faces. In a way, we are displaying what is in our hearts on the canvas of our face. If your canvas was on display in a show would someone buy it? Would it go early? Or would it get few bids, or no bids?

I often envy artists. I value their willingness to put themselves “on the wall” so to speak. However, I realize that I too have the opportunity to “display” myself and use that canvas to make a difference in other people’s lives. I will have an impact on the people I am around, and I am responsible for that impact. I make the choice whether that influence is positive or negative.

My intent is on my face and that is a fact.