In Deep Thought

By Tamae Vassell

On April 9th, 2024 the Mishkin Gallery hosted the Baruch Honors students for a tour and deep think sketch session of the current exhibition Taxonomies of Power: Photographic Encounters at the State Silk Museum, Tbilisi. After receiving an in depth guided tour of the exhibition and history behind the images by Mishkin Gallery Director and exhibition co-curator Alaina Claire Feldman, the students were tasked with participating in the deep thinking sketch session.

Deep thinking as defined by Hermann International is “a state of being where people can concentrate uninterrupted to find creative or outside-the-box solutions.” [1] It is thinking beyond your initial thoughts and perceptions to further question and seek why. This practice is also referred to as slow looking.

On average, museum attendees only look at an image for a few seconds. In this deep thinking sketch exercise, the students had to look at an image of their choice from the exhibition for 8 minutes while sketching the image. This exercise allowed the students to pay close attention to the details of the image and think deeper about what they were seeing. As I walked through the exhibition to capture the students in action, it was clear that after only a minute or two passing by the students were already really engaged and in deep thought as they tried to draw the image before them. While some students focused in on the textures and shapes, I was really intrigued by the students that focused on details of the backgrounds. For instance, one student decided to sketch an image in the exhibition of 7 cocoons in a blurred background with one silk moth emerging from the cocoon at centre focus. In this student’s image, you could see that they lightly drew and shaded the cocoons in the back before focusing on the centered cocoon. 

As I further thought about the practice of deep thinking, I was reminded of times that I have engaged in deep thinking. When I was tasked with creating the educational guide for this exhibition, I went through a deep thinking process. In order to find helpful resources and provide quality information on the subject matter, I had to think beyond the surface level. By continuously asking questions of the research I was conducting and thinking of what’s missing or what may be unclear, the information provided in the educational guide expanded. I myself was unaware of the practice of sericulture before researching it for this exhibition. Sericulture is defined as “the raising of silkworms for the production of raw silk.”[2] Due to sericulture, silkworms/silk moths are fully domesticated, therefore they cannot even mate on their own. This gave a new perspective when looking at the images in the exhibition that showcase the mating and reproduction stage, as that was only possible due to human intervention. Without this knowledge I would not have thought anything past the image showing the mating of a male and female silk moth.

When we take time to think deeper and look at all the intricate details or ask questions, we can gain a more in-depth experience. Thus, I would recommend trying the practice of deep thinking at your next visit to the Mishkin Gallery and in your daily life, making note of the differences that may occur.

If you are new to this concept and want to learn more, check out this quick guide to slow looking by the Tate. This guide provides further information and gives a few tips on the practice of slow looking/deep thinking.


References:

[1] Hermann International (2024) “Why Leaders Must Make Time for Deep Thinking”.  https://www.thinkherrmann.com/whole-brain-thinking-blog/why-leadership-requires-being-a-deep-thinker#:~:text=Deep%20thinking%20is%20a%20state,through%20different%20scenarios%20and%20perspectives.

[2] Dictionary.com (2024). “Sericulture”. https://www.dictionary.com/browse/sericulture

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