Years ago, I had an epiphany about the way my mind works. I am inclined toward three-dimensional ways of thinking. Two-dimensional tasks do not come as easily to me.
For example, some three-dimensional tasks in which I excel and/or enjoy greatly:
- visualization of the inside of a cell and biomolecules interacting
- abstract thinking (one reason that I love poetry)
- sculpture: ceramic and metal (welding)
- geometry and logic puzzles that involve rotating shapes in the mind
Some two-dimensional tasks that I am terrible at doing, or feel go against my natural abilities:
- sewing (do not look at the hem of the curtains I tailored)
Three-dimensional pursuits play to my strengths and interests while two-dimensional pursuits leave me floundering and laughing at myself.
I’m not convinced that having either a two-dimensional or a three-dimensional mind is a universal trait. In fact, I believe that people can excel at both. The following painter-sculptors leap to mind:
- Matisse (interesting NYT article “Matisse, Drawing in Three Dimensions“)
Clearly, this is my own limitation, not a trait inherent to the human mind.
At this point in my writing, I decided to search to see if anyone had previously made this distinction about a mind’s ability to work in varying dimensions. One painter described that they “sculpt the form on [the] canvas”. The artist was not referring to impasto, but to her method of translating a three-dimensional world on a two-dimensional canvas.
It may be a matter of how one conceptualizes dimensional thought.
Corollary: there may be hope for me yet!
A few days ago I realized just how bad I am at two-dimensional thinking. Sunboy was experimenting with perspective and orientation as he drew a diagonally-facing car. Soon, I was simplifying the shape of a car into one rectangle, one half-circle and two circles and demonstrating how these are drawn differently depending on which direction the car is moving. I went on to show him the typical road with rows of trees on either side, and how the trees are drawn larger to indicate more distance from the viewer. Yes, larger as they became more distant. What I drew for him was this:
Sunboy looked at me funny, but respectfully listened to my art lesson. When I realized what I had done and confessed again to him that I am terrible at drawing, we had a good laugh over mommy’s hopelessly three-dimensional mind.