The Beds We Make

The Bed You Made, 24″ x 18″ x 1 1/2″ oil on panel, 2022 by Julianna Paradisi

A few months ago I had the pleasure of exhibiting three paintings in the group show Home, as a member of Playground Gallery.

For the exhibition I wrote an essay on the theme of home, and gave an artist’s talk. 

At the exhibition I met a woman. She liked my painting of an unmade bed, The Bed You Made.  She asked about its inspiration.

I don’t know if nursing students still spend several weeks of their first semester learning how to make beds like me and my classmates did, but great emphasis was put on learning how to make a bed properly.

And with good reason.

Wrinkled bedsheets contribute to skin break down (bedsores) on a bed-ridden patient’s skin. Seams on the sheets cannot not come in contact with a patient’s skin for the same reason. In a simulated clinic under the scrutiny of our instructors, my classmates and I perfected our “hospital  

corners,”  securely anchoring the top sheets “the right way.” Professional nurse bed-making skills also include the ability to change sheets with an immobile patient in the bed.

Even in the PICU where I spent the first half of career, with its complex technologies, medications, and necessary life-saving skills, having a clean patient in a clean bed to prevent, or at least minimize, skin breakdown never lost its fundamental value.

In our home, because of my nurse-informed bed making compulsion, making the bed is my job. I am unable to prevent myself from making our bed the right way, which was seared into my psyche over thirty years ago. 

 During the lockdown of the pandemic, like many people, I spent more than my usual amount of time at home. To entertain myself, I stopped making my bed daily for about a week. I made sketches of the bedding arrangements as the week progressed. Then I made the painting.

While making the sketches, I considered the proverb, “As one makes one’s bed, so one finds it.”* This Middle French proverb has been adopted and adapted by many languages and cultures since it first appeared around 1590, but I like the original version best. It continues to hold meaning for our communities, the health of our planet, as well as our personal lives.

Imagine my delight when my acquaintance told me that her husband is a nurse practitioner, and she understands about the bed completely. He is also compelled to make their bed according to hospital standards. 

She validated the inspiration for my painting, and this weird little way art and science converge.

* ‘“You’ve made your bed…” first appeared around 1590 as the Middle French proverb “comme on faist son lict, on le treuve” (“As one makes one’s bed, so one finds it.”)’ -Several sources

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