Life’s lessons from x-rays and art


November 10th, 2010

Above and Beyond

A weekly exploration of creativity – or just something *out there*

It happened right at the end of an exercise workout, when we were cooling down and doing some stretches. It happened again when I was walking back to my room. I had to navigate around one of those maid’s trolleys that was full of clean towels and little bottles of shampoo. And it happened in the middle of an improv game. I wasn’t even doing anything strenuous – just ‘fainting’. And it happened again as I sat down on the floor.

What?

Four times this year I have dislocated my right ankle. I *just* click it back before it freaks me out too much. It doesn’t really hurt. Not like all those sprains that have led to this. It can’t go on so I am scheduled for an ankle reconstruction in December. That means x-rays. Well, it means initial x-rays and also an MRI. That means I am now the proud owner of a dozen or so large negative images of my ankle. Or I think so. Because mainly the images are a complete mystery to me.

One of the last things I did in London was visit the Gauguin Exhibition at the Tate Modern. I went with my friend Trish who is an artist. The exhibition focused on myth, storytelling and the construction of narrative in his life and art. It was organised into themes, rather than chronologically. It was really crowded. While Gauguin’s paintings were not a complete mystery, any art provides an opportunity for individual interpretation. I was struck by his use of colour, especially the ‘wrong’ colours – maybe unexpected would be a better word. And, for me, his use of orange stood out, as a signature, or continuing theme.

Both these anecdotes are about making meaning. I just did a google search for ‘making meaning’ and got 34,000,000 results. Yikes!

In the case of the MRI images, I am at a loss to make meaning because I don’t have the ‘language’ to do so. I rely on an expert, the orthapaedic surgeon to do the analysis and to trust his judgment.

With the art, I can, and do make meaning. My meaning. There is no right or wrong. That is the beauty of art. The paintings provide a rich platform for conversations about the similarities and differences we each see in the same painting.

While making meaning can be rewarding – nothing quite like an ah-ha! moment – sometimes it’s just nice to wallow in unknowing, to trust someone else or to acknowledge that I don’t need to break everything into bits or themes or categories. It is enough to simply experience. To be.

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