Comfortable with the Squishy Part II: Look, Look with Your Special Eyes

The White that Binds (Pinning Ceremony) by jparadisi 2010 mixed media & collage

I’ve read a lot about eyes, seeing, and looking lately.

Eye doctors are concerned about a fashion trend among young women called circle lenses. These non-prescription contact lenses create a large, round eye effect, making the woman look like a doll or cartoon character. Illegal in the United States, they are easily purchased on the internet from other countries, where no studies or quality checks are conducted to determine the safety of the lenses. A lack of scientific research proving whether or not circle lenses are safe seems not to concern these women. They are comfortable with the squishy.

As an artist making paintings about identity, I’m interested in the choices people make. I was a child during the consciousness-raising of the Feminist Movement, when women rebelled against a society that saw us as dolls or cartoon characters with biologically limited abilities.Nursing rebels against the depiction of nurses as angels, bitches, and handmaidens (excellent post by Barbara Glickstein, MPH, MS, RN for Off the Charts). Accepting these characterizations creates problems about role and identity for nurses of both genders.

Can nursing make advances in the media depiction of our profession if women pursue trends reinforcing the idea we are dolls and cartoon characters? When women choose fashion over their health and safety, can nursing’s demand for safe work environments be successful? Is there a connection between the two? Do mixed messages create roadblocks?

I don’t know the answers to these questions and that is why I explore them through art. Without scientific facts to turn to, I have to be comfortable with the squishy.

Comfortable with the Squishy: Part I

I need to make an appointment for an eye exam. I suspect I need a new prescription. So of course, this wonderful old poem by Lisel Mueller comes to  mind.

When Leonardo and Michelangelo walked the earth, artists and scientists were the same people.  The barbers who cut your hair and shaved your beard were also surgeons. At some point, everyone divided up into separate camps. Medicine is the considered hard science. Art is squishy. Sometimes squishy makes a lot of sense.

Monet Refuses the Operation

by Lisel Mueller

Doctor, you say there are no haloes

around the streetlights in Paris

and what I see is an aberration

caused by old age, an affliction.

I tell you it has taken me all my life

to arrive at the vision of gas lamps as angels,

to soften and blur and finally banish

the edges you regret I don’t see,

to learn that the line I called the horizon

does not exist and sky and water,

so long apart, are the same state of being.

Fifty-four years before I could see

Rouen cathedral is built

of parallel shafts of sun,

and now you want to restore

my youthful errors: fixed

notions of top and bottom,

the illusion of three-dimensional space,

wisteria separate

from the bridge it covers.

What can I say to convince you

the Houses of Parliament dissolves

night after night to become

the fluid dream of the Thames?

I will not return to a universe

of objects that don’t know each other,

as if islands were not the lost children

of one great continent. The world

is flux, and light becomes what it touches,

becomes water, lilies on water,

above and below water,

becomes lilac and mauve and yellow

and white and cerulean lamps,

small fists passing sunlight

so quickly to one another

that it would take long, streaming hair

inside my brush to catch it.

To paint the speed of light!

Our weighted shapes, these verticals,

burn to mix with air

and change our bones, skin, clothes

to gases. Doctor,

if only you could see

how heaven pulls earth into its arms

and how infinitely the heart expands

to claim this world, blue vapor without end.