Tuesday, February 08, 2005


Each morning at the hospital, en route to my morning meetings, I pass through a hallway lined with consumer art ("consumer" being the PC term for “person with a mental illness”). These paintings and drawings were, I believe, purchased from their producers (or consumers? whatever) when our new building opened last spring. I'm not sure just how mentally ill you had to be to participate in this art-buy-up. The pieces vary considerably in sophistication; some are pretty good. Often I look at the works and try to envision the type and severity of mental illness experienced by their artists.

One piece stands out: a large, sketchy pastel of a small, ketch-rigged sailboat. It's under full sail, lightly heeled away from the viewer, moving along at what looks like a pleasant speed towards the top-right of the frame. The boat’s name on the transom reads “PASHON”. The weather looks lovely. A couple, both fuzzily-rendered but friendly looking, sit to windward on the cockpit coamings, their backs to us. He has a light hand on the tiller, facing forward. She's looking back at him. Unlike so many sailing couples, they appear relaxed.

The picture doesn't show much technical refinement—perhaps high-school art quality. But it impresses me in spite of that, because it joyfully captures the sense and essence of a sailboat under way. It makes a sailor smile. There are none of the clichéd inaccuracies typical of stylized sailboats drawn by landlubbers-- no jibs attached at the wrong edge, sails trimmed flat amidships, masts without stays or shrouds. No, this one was drawn by someone who had spent a lot of time around boats and knew which details were important. Or was copying it out of a boating magazine (but I prefer not to think so.)

So for months I've been wondering about this person, and his (or her) interest in sailing, and his mental illness, and where these things intersected, and what effect they had on each other. And I thank him for reminding me, every day, that there's more to life than what I do in this building.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an intriguing mystery. If you find out the painter, please tell us. (Even though we don't comment, we appreciate your quirky take on life).

2/16/05, 9:38 PM  

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