Seen isn’t a collection of fables telling deeply personal stories or colorful menageries illustrating the gritty facades we are forced to wear. This body of work is completely different from my past work.

These are captured moments of recognition — that split second where you are the viewer and the viewed. The scale, medium and composition of each piece is carefully crafted to illustrate an intimate and intensely profound experience. This collection speaks to our desire to be both known and seen.

MaLynda Poulsen comes with a laugh and a bit of a silent roar — as those of you who know her expect, from when she taught at Whitman College. 

Intentionally intimate, and dark, her larger then life charcoal drawings, are animals “recognizing … understanding … knowing” who you are, relishing in “the viewer and the viewed” relationship. 

“Animals are honest and have no agenda. I value that authentic experience; making eye contact with them, and in that split second, they decide whether they are going to engage with you or not.”

MaLynda says, the “shared gaze” with animals feels like “the world is suspended for a mere moment, and you are seen for your true self.” 

“Shared gaze” is her term. When defined, “shared” actually refers to: two beings looking toward something else, and they are doing this together. They are sharing the experience together. 

Which, as she is the hand of the eye, is what she may very well mean. She and the animal are looking together at “something else.” 

In this case, that other thing is the viewer, you. Perhaps what she also means, is “mutual gaze” defined as the act of eye contact.

This phenomena of eye contact, is felt by many of us. Even in blindness, often the eye still picks up information, or as Dr. Becky Musick phrased it: “a sense of awareness.” 

The eye has its own agenda, Dr. Christian Jarrett of the British Psychological Society suggests the eye creates subconscious signals for a “mind meld,” or the act of “touching brains.” 

As, I love to look to science to explain the “woo” in art, coming across those terms, conjured a smile. Even more, when the science article acknowledged this feeling can be enacted by looking at a portrait. Hello, Mona Lisa! 

Breaking the fourth wall, a theater phrase for acknowledging the audience, can be startling in daily life. Connecting with a gaze can create a slowing of time, a lulling of thought, and an affirmation of existence whether it is with a loved one or a stranger. MaLynda, who received her masters in fine arts in Visual Studies from Boise state in 2004, is showing her latest studies of such a sensation. 

What is happiness? Happiness is a beautiful warm evening with a slight breeze, amazing food and wine, friends, and the love of my life with his hand on my leg.

Do you have any advice? Take advantage of opportunities. I have very few regrets about the things I have done, but many for the things I didn’t do.

What does your creative process look like? Many people don’t understand what it’s like to be creative. I have at least 20 new ideas a day. Of course, not all of them are good. It’s like being a rock hound looking for a stone among many. Sometimes you have to break open a bunch of stones. From a distance I probably look like a dumb monkey beating stones against each other while scratching my head. I know it looks messy. 

I’ve also been told I’m easily distracted. Oh, I wish. Once I get an idea it’s all I can think about, talk about, or do. I dream about it until it’s complete! 

Music or quiet, when you work? I absolutely listen to music while I work. Currently my playlist is “musicals” and yes, I know all the words to most Disney songs. 

What would I say in a moment of bravery? Well the most important thing in the world to me is relationships. So those times when I have told my friends what they need to hear and not what they want to hear. That takes courage.

How do I handle rejection? Like a boss! Call them stupid face, enjoy a bottle of whiskey, and commiserate with country music. Then I send out 4 more applications the next day and never think about it again.

When do I think about presentation? Before I start. It’s all part of it!

When have you felt the most seen or understood? Great question, considering the title of this show. I would say rarely. Rarely do I feel like people know the real me. I try to be genuine at all times, but I think it requires empathy, a level of selflessness, and genuine interest to really know someone else. 

I believe everyone has the desire to be seen and understood, but few people are able to emotionally and intellectually connect. I’m constantly disappointed by this. To “see” and “understand” someone is an act of kindness and generosity. Maybe even love.

What is something we should know, that we don’t? Something I hate about myself is I hate being late. I feel like it is so disrespectful toward others and their time. I am constantly working on being on time.

What is success? That moment a piece goes on the wall. I love it! I love seeing it finished and looking all grown up. Especially when it turns out better than I had anticipated.

Augusta Sparks Farnum is a resident artist at Studio Two Zero Two, 202 Main St. To learn more about her work, see augustasparks.com. For more about the gallery, see studio202gallery.com.

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