“Eye contact” is not as well-defined a concept as it seems. As a child, I had an idea that true eye contact required a perfect eye-to-eye lock: my right eye looking into the other’s left eye, my left eye looking into their right, and vice versa. This, of course, is impossible; you have to pick one eye, or a point somewhere near the eyes on the face, in order to focus your gaze. The paths might randomly cross, but they don’t meet and stop. When standing near someone at a party, or sitting on opposite sides of a desk, holding eye contact is tricky — not because of the intimacy, but because you have to move your eyes around to take in their whole face. Counterintuitively, the illusion is easier to maintain if the person you’re looking at is farther away.
More… “Ways of Looking”

Elisa Gabbert is the author of L’Heure Bleue, or the Judy Poems (Black Ocean), The Self Unstable (Black Ocean) and The French Exit (Birds LLC). Follow her on Twitter at @egabbert.


Here in the crowded retina clinic, we’re waiting to have pictures taken of our macula with marvelous cameras, the backs of our eyes are about to be zapped with lasers or, like me, our central retinal veins have occluded — fancy term for a blood clot — and the retinas have swollen. The result is blurred and distorted vision. Luckily, only my right eye is afflicted.

I’ve already read the chart — could barely make out the large E at the top — and have had dilating drops put into my eyes, so now I’m waiting for my pupils to become pie tins, big enough for someone to look all the way into my soul.

Albert DiBartolomeo is the author of two novels, several short stories, numerous commentaries for the Philadelphia Inquirer and other publications, and has written for Readers Digest,… More…


It’s The Look that gets to you. Frida Kahlo took up a variety of subject matter and dabbled in a number of styles. All of it worth seeing. But in the end it is the self-portraits that endure and that fuel her ever-increasing stature in 20th century art. That’s because in the portraits you get The Look. The Look is the Frida Kahlo stare. If you’ve seen any of her self-portraits then you have seen it. It is an expression that barely changes throughout a lifetime of paintings. Costumes change, parrots flutter into the frame, monkeys come and go. The Look never wavers. Walking through the major exhibit currently hanging at the Philadelphia Museum of Art or flipping through the catalog, it’s clear that The Look starts in about 1930 with the Self-Portrait of that year and keeps… More…

One of the virtues of the current exhibit “The Age of Rembrandt: Dutch Paintings” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art is that you can see Rembrandt among his contemporaries. You can see the milieu he was working within and what was different and unique about him. One thing that is confirmed in this comparison is that, like no one else, Rembrandt is eyes. (This is a different point than that made by Simon Schama in his Rembrandt’s Eyes, but not necessarily an incompatible one). By eyes I mean the whole “eye area” — the brow, the lids, the entire fleshy region immediately surrounding and containing the eyes. Contrary to the popular saying, it is not just the eye that is the window to the soul. It is the aforementioned “eye area” that really does it. The wrinkles and furrows, the black bags, and the heavy lids — these are essential… More…