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Adaptation.

Quite recently, I read an article in which two Harvard Medical School scientists speculated that Rembrandt may have had lazy-eye disorder, and the defect--shared by other great artists--may have been a creative advantage.

The researchers discovered the defect after careful examination of scores of Rembrandt's self-portraits. In thiry-six of them, his eyes seemed to be misaligned. Consistently, his left eye was looking outward, an indication of lazy-eye disorder. Ordinarily, the defect can be detected from photographs, but for the Dutch master, his seventeenth-century self-portraits are the only source. The article went on to say that other artists such as Pablo Picasso, Winslow Homer, and Frank Stella have also had misaligned eyes.

The lazy-eye disorder limits depth perception. In normal vision, the brain combines images from both eyes to help form a three-dimensional picture. With lazy eye, one eye is weaker and the brain begins ignoring the poorer eye, thus objects in the world seem flatter. Since much of artistic production involves capturing a three-dimensional world on a flat canvas, this disorder might actually be an asset or creative advantage for the artist.

None of Us Stands Alone

After reading this article, I began to think about other artists whose flexibility, adaptability, creative production, or way of working may have been challenged by physical impairments. The history of art is full of stories about artists who had to overcome obstacles, make adjustments to studio facilities, or adapt techniques to facilitate their work: Margaret Bourke-White, Dale Chihuly, Francisco de Goya, Elizabeth Layton, Claude Monet, Faith Ringgold, Frida Kahlo, Robert Rauschenberg, Chuck Close, Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec, Albert Pinkham Ryder, Henri Matisse, Leonardo da Vinci, and Michael Graves, to name a few.

For sure, flexibility, adaptability, and creativity are essential to the success of every artist. For artists who are physically or neurologically challenged, excelling in these traits is an even greater accomplishment.

In the Shelter of Others

We all know what it means to adjust to a new situation--a new house, a new school, a new boss, new technology. We started adapting when we were infants, and we've continued to make adjustments in our lives ever since. For just as flexibility, adaptability, and creativity are essential to the success of artists, these traits are also essential to everyone's well-being. We all reinvent ourselves as we move through life's passages. We all modify our wardrobes as the seasons change. We all create new environments as we maintain our homes.

For the most part, the changes we make in our lives on a daily basis are small, usually in response to subtle shifts in priorities or minor interruptions in routines. Sometimes there are peak experiences that turn our lives around, point us in completely new directions, and change our lives completely. On rare occasions, we are confronted with realities for which we are totally unprepared, and which break or in some way impair mind, body, or spirit. In those exceptional situations, we become dependent on others to make those adaptations for us, for it is in the shelter of each other that we live.

Adaptation for Survival

Adaptation in biology means survival of the fittest. Thus the bully--projecting fitness, wealth, and power--is often, if only temporarily, at an advantage. But in the more complex world of human relationships, adaptation means survival of the harmonious. In all things harmony. Certainly the bully, like anyone else, has the power of choice. But when the bully imagines that he can use that power to choose for others, he's wrong. He has forgotten that it is in the shelter of each other that we live--must live--in harmony.

It is not too late to adapt. It is not too late to refocus a lazy eye. The vision is clear: In all things harmony. The future is yet to come.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Editor's Comments
Author:Katter, Eldon
Publication:School Arts
Article Type:Editorial
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Words:629
Previous Article:School's out!
Next Article:New year, new things.
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