"Stop and smell the roses" is a popular saying, meant to encourage a greater awareness -- and appreciation -- of our world.
And now, with advances in science, it turns out that slowing down and being cognizant of our surroundings is not only good for one's health, it may very well be essential for appreciating and understanding art.
On Sunday Nov. 4, at 4:30 p.m., Tom Brenner, artist-scholar, will present a lecture at the Silvermine Arts Center in New Canaan that delves into such topics as how the mind perceives the world, and how those perceptions are transferred to canvas, as well as the essential components of sun and shadow/light and darkness to painting through the centuries.
All this may sound esoteric, but according to Silvermine these lectures sell out quickly because they are fascinating, stimulating and fun.
Fairfielder Brenner -- a veteran art instructor who teaches at Silvermine, Sacred Heart University and Housatonic Community College -- will tackle "Illumination -- The Role of Light in Two-Dimensional Art: As Tool, as Subject, as Symbol & Significance."
Art pieces by Brenner are featured in public and private collections here and abroad.
"Light is the very substance of our visual experience of the world," Brenner said. "As such, it lies at the heart of all of the visual arts. In exploring this fascinating subject, this presentation will survey scores of images from a wide range of times, places and artistic perspectives.
"It's a huge subject," he said, laughing, adding that it's one to which he's given enormous thought.
A painter, pastelist and photographer for more than 30 years, Brenner said his Nov. 4 talk will consider such questions as:
How best can an artist perceive and understand the workings of light in the physical world?
By what means can he or she most effectively translate these observations into an artistic image?
How does the artist's treatment of light affect the viewer's response?
The artist intends to present a "visual journey" while interlacing words of artists, scientists, poets and philosophers to "further illuminate the aesthetic, emotional and spiritual significance of light in our lives and our creativity."
"The profound significance of light in our lives is reflected by its central importance in the works of great artists from Vermeer to Rothko. It is, similarly, a major theme in my own work, which could best be described as architectural landscape, handled in a manner that emphasizes abstracted shapes, color and surface," he said.
"For the past eight years, I have focused primarily on the streets, buildings and railroad yards in Bridgeport, a location that holds a limitless visual potential if one will simply take the time and devote the attention to discern the vibrant life of its present as well as the poignant beauty of its faded past," he explained.
The artist peppered the interview with quotes that reflect his focus, noting that it was Leonardo da Vinci who wrote: "Of the original phenomena, light is the most enthralling."
Brenner also quoted poet Edith Wharton: "There are two ways of spreading light: to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it."
"To my mind," Brenner added, "an artist may fulfill either, or both, of the functions to which Wharton alludes: Some artists depict light in a representational manner. Others create light itself in works that literally glow with their own profound illumination."
Brenner has traveled extensively in Africa, India, Europe and Mexico. He received a bachelor's degree in fine arts from Yale University and a master of fine arts degree from Vermont's Goddard College.
The lecture is at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 4 at Silvermine Arts Center's Sara Victoria Hall at the School of Art, 1037 Silvermine Road, New Canaan. Tickets are $12; $10 for members. Call 203-966-6668, ext. 2; www.silvermineart.org.