Rendered Fat Content


John Singer Sargent:
Venetian Glass Workers (1880–82)

" … none of them the one the artist might have intended."

As The Muse and I waited to board our flight out of The Valley Near The Center Of The Universe, I used that idle time to check messages. Like you, I maintain a tenuous relationship with my iPhone. I utterly rely upon it while it continually disappoints my expectations. I often fail to receive notice upon receipt of a text message, so I usually go for days before discovering that I received one. People have come to use texting more often than calling, which means that attempts to contact me almost always fail to reach me at first. The worst-case scenario involves a real emergency where the informing party texts me. A week or so later, I might saunter into my Messages app to find a smoldering ember remaining from some three-alarm fire.

This text had come early the previous morning, informing me that my new lenses were in.
A couple of weeks before this, I visited my optometrist to get my glasses adjusted. I'd fallen asleep while wearing them and rolled over them or something, but the frames were so twisted that I couldn't get the lenses to properly focus. It took some doing, but the tech managed to correct that problem. However, the focus remained distinctly fuzzy, so I returned a few days later to receive a scolding. Another tech told me I'd been cleaning my lenses improperly, so I'd irreparably scratched them. They needed replacing. They'd take a couple of weeks to come in from the lab. They'd text me. They had texted me the prior morning while I had almost frantically prepared for this excursion. My lenses had come in. I’d missed a message again.

The Muse and I were traveling to New York City, where we were destined to become denizens of some of this world's great museums. We're both pretty much suckers for the Impressionists, and given that I use some fine art image in each of my postings, I've accumulated a fair amount of Art History knowledge. I sat in the terminal, frustrated that I'd missed that text, though it had been eminently missable due to its very medium. I imagined I might experience some trouble seeing the works I'd subject myself to through the following excursion. Too late by then; I would be traveling without them. The book I read on the plane was difficult to see. I squinted and dozed and somehow made it through perhaps eighty pages in four hours. It was a slog. Since my cataract surgeries, I enjoy almost 20/20 vision in both eyes. I say almost because I cannot quite properly see without my glasses. I drive without them, but I can only really read if they're on.

Museums must be masters of presentation. The placement, illumination, and adjacent information must be balanced so that a patron finds them easily accessible. With my glasses, I discovered their lens scratches especially encumbering. I had to hold my head to one side and peer through the unaffected edges of the lenses to clearly see. I was better able to see each painting without resorting to glasses at all. The explanation on the wall beside each work became too difficult to decipher, so I started ignoring it. This strategy worked just fine. The Impressionists might be best seen through a somewhat fuzzy focus, without too much technology between. The colors seemed perfectly vibrant, and even the details didn't seem encumbered. Indeed, with my glasses on, I couldn't see nearly as much as I could with them off.

This was a first for me, to realize that I might only sometimes need the various prostheses I claim to need. I might sometimes be better off being a bit blind to the proceedings, better able to see something in its natural state if I cannot create perfect conditions. I once strived so hard to achieve perfection that I sometimes walked right by the meaning I might have discovered while attempting. I would catch myself falling short and embarrass myself without acknowledging that I was experiencing something significant, just different than I'd imagined I might. Van Gogh, seen without glasses, remains a master, just slightly different than advertised. As The Muse and I slipped through those galleries, I realized I was engaged in my experience, which was probably unlike any others. That recognition seems oddly reassuring, for there might be ten thousand and more different perspectives for each and every painting, not one of them wrong and probably none of them the one the artist might have intended.

©2023 by David A. Schmaltz - all rights reserved

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