Monday, January 19, 2009
Christina's World Wasn't
Well knock me down. I was browsing on Patricia Bauer's blog as I do every day, several times a day - no one in the blogging word updates as often as Patricia does. She keeps me current on what's happening in the disability world, she is one of my several blog heros. I popped onto her blog on Sunday and read an article about the death of Andrew Wyeth and information regarding the picture 'Christina's World'. I loved that picture the first time I saw it. There was something in it that spoke to me, something deep - art, like dogs and little kittens, have entry to parts of my heart kept barred to everyone and everything else. That picture was one such picture.
When I first read about the picture being of someone with a disability and Mr. Wyeth's desire to paint someone who may be 'limited physically but not spiritually' I was tremendously moved. Mr. Wyeth was able to see that disability didn't reduce one's humanity, didn't take away one's spirit ... no, instead disability can do quite the opposite.
I shouldn't have kept reading.
Then I read that Christine Olson "refused to use a wheelchair and preferred to live in squalor rather than be beholden to anyone. It was dignity of a particularly dour, hardened, misanthropic sort ..." and the meaning of the picture changed for me. I had always seen Christina's World as being huge - limited only by imagination. I saw her aloneness as momentary, that her world was just there ... just there at the top of the hill. It was a beautiful image to me. It spoke of hope to a singluar and lonely boy .. who wanted a world waiting at the crest of the hill.
But now, I see her world as so small. Her refusal to accept the use of a wheelchair, to drag herself around, to accept nothing from no-one. I see a world limited by inablility not disability - two wildly different things. This painting, suddenly, became incredibly sad, unbearably tragic.
Years ago I remember hearing Paula Poundstone (whatever happened to her?) doing stand up comedy and talking about how, when we flush the toilet, small droplets of feces drift upwards into the air. Then after a dramatic pause, she said, "You can be too well informed."
That's kind of how I feel about this painting now. I'm too well informed about it, I will have to look at it and look at it and look at it again, to see if what I saw is still there, if what I needed to see was still available to me ... I suspect it is not.
Christina's World ... could have been, but wasn't, beautiful. Let that not be said of any of us, for any reason.