Thursday, April 3, 2014

What do you see?

Rain, steam and speed by Turner

Early in my return to painting I was asked frequently why I did not do traditional watercolors but instead used vivid colors. Where they got the idea that watercolors were always pastel in palette I had no idea because I had been exposed in college to Turner among others. But my reply to potential clients was that I painted what I remembered seeing. I would go out and take photographs and come back and upload them to my camera and always be a bit disappointed. I remembered the rocks redder, the sun brighter, the sky more vividly blue.

A recent eye exam has shown that I have rapidly developing cataracts. And that has raised the question of what it is I do see. Did Turner also have cataracts and see the world blurry like I do without my glasses? El Greco, it is believed had a condition that elongated what he saw. So maybe his paintings were what he did see and not some artistic distortion.

The creation of the camera gave rise to impressionism because the artist no longer had to faithfully record what he saw. But to we really know what they did see? Was Whistler colorblind. Or Dali truly mad? Did cataracts make all of Van Gogh's lights blur and glow?

I am pretty comfortable with what I see in my studio and even on my computer with glasses. My distance vision does not seem yet effected though I am told the world will be brighter after surgery. But it seems bright enough because lights are like Van Gogh's Starry. Starry Night. Beethoven wrote the Ninth Symphony when he was almost totally deaf.

But yesterday when I had to register my new pickup I realized how much of the minutia of the legal world I was missing out on. Under florescent lights (which are cool in color and vibrate at 60 megahertz) I seriously could not read a thing on the title glasses or no glasses. I should have brought a seeing eye person because the clerk was absolutely no help whatever.

The invention of the printing press and then movable type was a boon to the dissemination of information. But the computer has made it possible to make print smaller and smaller and smaller.  And fortunately someone invented the e-book so we can change the font back larger - i.e. readable. But our legal system has realized it can make required legal language so small nobody can read it. Like the warnings on drugs, or the ingredients on food labels, or the small print on your cell phone contract.

And I belong to the contact lens generation. We want to look good even as we age. I do not what to have to get out my readers in the grocery aisle, or a magnifying glass at the department of motor vehicles. Nor ask the push clerk at Verison to read the contract to me before I sign.

I swallowed my pride yesterday and asked the clerk where was I suppose to sign and she either pointed to the wrong place or misunderstood the question or I misunderstood her answer. But the title got signed in the wrong place and the pickup did not get registered.  My mistake but the seller has to take the time to file and affidavit as if it were his mistake. Can society come up with more ways to shame its elders?

BTW if that is what Turner saw what a fantastic gift!

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