If you had the chance to see the world with different eyes, would you look?
I did it. Or rather, I am doing it.
What if you were given the chance to change the way you see the world, but you might never be able to go back to the ways things were?
I'm doing it anyway.
I went to the library for a summer novel but came out with Fixing My Gaze: A Scientist's Journey into Seeing in Three Dimensions, by Susan R. Barry. It's about how a neurobiologist with a lifelong vision defect learned how to see stereoscopically by undergoing vision therapy. Previously, she could only see two-dimensionally.
For explanation: Two-dimensional vision, or 2-D, is flat, like a drawing on paper. 3-D means that there is also depth: an actual room with furniture in it, instead of a drawing of such a room.
It's a fascinating story. At the end of the book, the author listed little tests you could try online to check your own depth perception.
I failed every single one of them.
I discovered, to my horror, that the world did not look the way I saw it. There were layers I couldn't use.
I called my sister and said, "I have no depth perception!" And she said (like "duh") "Yeah, I know. That's why your paintings have that compressed space."
I said, "My paintings have compressed space?"
So I made some calls and started vision therapy. Now, a year later, I can see in 3-D. Most of the time. What's really cool is that I can pop it in and out by thinking about it. Although, the longer I go to therapy, the more I lose the ability to retreat to flatspace.
I used to walk around as though I had a flat screen TV in front of my face. Not a good one. Not HD. Certainly not 3-D. Everything I could see was on that flat screen. There was nothing beyond it.
Now I move in space, and it is a totally different experience. It's not just that the world looks different; it feels different, too. In fact, it's like a different planet. A friend, who is undergoing therapy as well, describes it as the difference between mono and stereo in music; there's stuff you just can't hear in mono.
I think it's more like the protagonist's experience in the movie "Avatar," who went from seeing the world from his wheelchair, to being in the world a completely mobile and free-moving person. Before you get offended about my use of a handicapped person in my metaphor, remember that I am legally blind in one eye as the result of a childhood accident. That's what caused my inability to see in three dimensions.
I knew that this course of therapy would probably change my art. Drawing is the act of transferring a three-dimensional subject to a two-dimensional image. I was able to do that with some ease, because I was already seeing in two dimensions anyway. So there was a danger I might lose some of that ease. Or all of it.
I thought that of course now my work would have depth (hopefully both kinds: depth, and depth, if you know what I mean).
What has changed is my use of color.
It's like the e.e. cummings poem: "now the eyes of my eyes are opened."
It's like the gospel version of Amazing Grace: "was blind, but now I see."
If a person is the sum of her perceptions, then I have become a whole different entity. It's so worth it.
My Behavioral Optometrist is Steven J. Gallop, O.D. His phone number is 610 356 7425, and his office is at 7 Davis, Avenue, Broomall PA 19008. His website is GallopIntoVision.com.