March 16, 2015

Strange New Color World

The doctor told me that my newly acquired peculiar color vision in my left eye was nothing to worry about - just a difference due to the surgical implant I had following cataract surgery. My last blog entry related how I was trying to adjust to the new color world of pink bananas, grey grass, blue peas, and not seeing what I was trying to paint any longer.

I decided not long after my post that I had had enough of attempting to paint with a patch over the offending eye, trying to eat spaghetti with a sauce that looks like raspberry sorbet, seeing awful colors on my favorite clothes, and harvesting flowers that looked grey instead of purple and peach instead of yellow. The painting problem had been especially disconcerting because it had crept into stereoscopic vision as well. The painting I made at right with both eyes open I thought had a light blue background.

So I called the manufacturer of the artificial lens and gave them a report of the problem. My patience having run out, instead of attempting to legitimize what I was now seeing, I spilled out a whining concatenation of how terrible their new lens was vis a vis my quality of life with regard to eating food with unappetizing colors and not being able to see what I’m painting....and I want it out! According to the manufacturer, the color distortion that I was describing was way out of bounds for what was normal for their lens. That prompted me to examine the situation again. After researching color blindness on the net I discovered the reason why the doctor told me I had "normal" vision. I was given a test for red green color blindness and my problem was yellow blue. Needless to say, at the time I pointed to the yellow trash can that I could still see out of my right eye and let the eye doctor know that out of my left eye the trash can was white. He was unmoved and I was again reassured that the filter in my implanted lens was the culprit.

I did some unscientific, albeit helpful tests to further isolate the problem. I created an online gallery of yellow objects on Etsy and posted it in a treasury entitled "Sweet Sweet Yellow Goodbye." I wrote a caption explaining that after surgery all the pictured objects look white, peach, and pink. I went on to say that the doctor said this was normal. Is that true? I queried. I expected the display to go viral, with a resounding "Nay" from the internet world. What in fact panned out was that only seven people even looked at the gallery of yellows, two of them writing a note thanking me for including their work among such pretty things. Clearly my ability to create a message left something to be desired.

On to plan B. I selected a picture of a glass vase that was described as yellow and green from my Etsy list of yellow things. I cut and pasted this onto to an e-mail and sent it to people who had correct vision and as well to others whose vision had been corrected by cataract surgery. I told them I saw a vase that was very light blue and trimmed with very light champagne pink. As I suspected, even those with implanted lenses after cataract surgery saw green and yellow.

"Aha!" I said to myself. My first inclination was to take my findings back to the doctor who tried to convince me that it was perfectly normal for an inter ocular lens implant to wipe green and yellow right off the visual map and exclaim, "Liar, liar, pants on fire!"

Instead I thought I might contact an eye doctor with greater cosmopolitan flair and erudition with my problem. He agreed that the lens was most likely not the problem and gave me a short list of medical tests to do. He also made mention of a peculiar illness that often follows a neurological episode and causes color distortions that range from seeing the wrong colors to seeing the world with no color at all.

It was hard for me to imagine a world that looks like the Wizard of Oz film before Dorothy opens that door to Munchkin land. But yesterday, when broad daylight over my blue, red and yellow flannel shirt turned it to gray and white I could imagine it. What would one do if the living world became black and white? Would I still dream in color? I vowed that should such a fate befall me I would become an even more avid consumer of classic black and white films than I am now and spend my days working on black and white drawings.

In the mean time, I’m giving my patched eye a break and making monoprints in black with limited color palettes painted back in to them, nestling in to the safety of gray tones.
  I had thought this monoprint was abstract.  Turning it upright I see that it is a cat.  It looks like my theme of cats in paintings and illustrations is not quite over.

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