Magazine article School Arts

Adaptation

Magazine article School Arts

Adaptation

Article excerpt

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. …

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