The Beauty of Imperfection
People with disabilities have long been expressing themselves through art, but can art and culture even exist without disability?
Aleksandra Jones | | Opinion
I recently took part in an enlightening workshop focused on bringing inclusive practice into various communication initiatives; one strong theme seemed to permeate the event: most of us are not doing enough. Yes, we are increasingly aware of the need for diversity (gender and ethnic) in our various endeavors – an attitude The Ophthalmologist has actively adopted and strived to maintain – but inclusivity, especially of disabled communities, is often lagging behind.
This reality was fresh in my mind as I began collecting artwork for this year’s Images of Ophthalmology feature. Art has always had a connection to impairment; for centuries (possibly millennia), people with disabilities have been expressing themselves through various cultural forms and genres, including painting, music, and dance – sometimes as an expression of struggle, developing group consciousness, or seeking solidarity.
Impairment and suffering, whether physical or mental, is also evident in the biographies of many famous artists. More specifically, Patrick Trevor-Roper, whose biography we shared recently, explored how vision impairment influenced not only the artistry – the style and technique – but also the personality of the most famous artists in The World Through Blunted Sight: An Inquiry into the Influence of Defective Vision on Art and Character. He claims that art is influenced not only by physical changes – the distorted retinal image, blurred vision, visual field defects, or imperfect color perception – but also by the subtle and complex changes in the artist’s personality caused by loss of vision (1).
So, dear ophthalmologists, with your extensive knowledge of all possible conditions affecting sight, you are likely better qualified than most to try to answer my question: Would our artistic and cultural heritage be stripped of its finest works if the world was free of vision impairment?
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- P Trevor-Roper, 3rd edition. Souvenir Press: 2012.