Saturday, 13 April 2013
The current blog post you are about to read contains some pretty depressing material. If you are not a fan of death and dying, or aging in general, then you may want to skip this one.
-You have been warned.
I have a couple of jobs. One at Canada Post which is quite uneventful, and the other is working in a Long Term Care facility which is anything but.
I work in Long Term Care as a Personal Support Worker. I basically take care of the elderly who are on their last legs of life and are no longer able to take care of themselves. They pretty well all have Alzheimer's, most have additional dementia and its the lucky resident who is actually able to walk, let alone form a solid bowl movement, not need a diaper, speak, hear, or eat solid food that hasn't gone through the blender for 5 minutes longer then any food should ever need to. Everything we are able to do for ourselves they can't, and I do it for them. Until they pass on...
It is often, quite obviously, a pretty depressing environment.
But this blog isn't about my job. It's about a large painting that hangs in the common room within this not so sunny environment.
This is the picture. Blow it up to really appreciate the details.
Now the super depressing intro to this blog served a purpose. It provided the setting for which this painting is situated. Namely a really depressing environment. I'm now going to argue that I find it absurd that somebody deemed this painting appropriate for a Long Term Care environment.
I should start by saying that the actual painting within our facility is actually black and white, further adding to its dreariness. The color within the original art piece actually kind of changes its meaning but i'll get to that later.
I'm now going to give you what is my interpretation of this painting. This is the same interpretation that I've given to many of my fellow employees who had not noticed this painting but, upon really examining it, were dumbfounded.
We have 4 characters in this painting. A doctor, a young child who is his patient and the mother and father of the child. We can see there is various tools the doctor used.
I saw that there was alcohol on the table by the doctor. I assumed he used this to numb the daughers pain while he conducted surgery on her for some sort of illness. I thought he had done surgery because there was a table next to the daughter that what I believed to contain a bowl of water that housed his scalpel and bloody rags.
I also saw the mother in the background crying inconsolably, while her husband attempted to comfort her nonetheless, while looking on to his daughter.
The mothers crying is understandable considering her daughter has just died. This can be seen by looking at her body sprawled out across two chairs, eyes closed, and most importantly her recently unclenched hands that has released, upon her death, what I thought to be rose petals that you can then see lying on the floor underneath her.
Incredibly depressing no?
Now you might look at that picture and see some discrepancies.
Again this picture was black and white so I actually didn't see the objects properly. Now viewing the color version I see that I had made a few errors. And actually I was completely wrong about what I was seeing in the painting.
Here is the black and white version:
However after pointing out the correct interpretation i'll again argue that it still should not be within the facility.
So onto the correct interpretation.
In my view the painting was about the death of a daughter. The painting in actuality is about the Doctor and not the daughter. The artist was inspired by a personal experience where he was helpless with his ailing one year that a doctor saved.
This painting is actually about the doctor being the consummate professional.
The father and mother are helpless to aid their ailing daughter. The mother turns to prayer and is seen praying for her daughter to get better. The father is looking to the doctor for strength and the doctors confidence and authoritarian demeanor provide him with hope.
Based on the mismatched furniture, small living space, and the clothing of the family you can determine that they are of the lower classes. They work hard but there is much in the world that don't understand and therefore must rely on higher authorities for their expertise.
In the case of a ill child they require a doctor. And the doctor in this painting has turned to his expertise. He has recently used his instruments to help their daughter. There is washbasin with cold water and a towel that was used to help break the daughters fever. And what I had thought was alcohol was actually medicine This can be evidenced by the prescription papers lying on the ground, that I had thought were rose petals.
And most importantly the daughter has not died. The doctor looks on with his furrowed brow, dressed in the suit of his profession, and is evaluating his patient, having used all his tools of his trade.
Luckily it looks as though all his hard work has paid off. We can see the light of dawn creeping into the room and casting a light onto the daughter. It looks as if she is beginning to recover thanks to the doctor.
...or maybe it was the prayer.
Ok so two very different interpretations. One happy ending. One incredibly sad. Even though I interpreted the painting wrong I still believe this painting should not hang. My interpretation was wrong largely due to the fact that the actual painting is black and white. Furthermore everybody I pointed this painting out to also agreed with my interpretation.
So happy ending or not this painting should not be in my facility.
It reminds me of my history of psychology courses where psych wards used to be incredibly dreary, bland and depressing environments until somebody had the novel idea of actually letting their patients experience sunshine, green grass, and exercise to outstanding results.
My facility is depressing enough. Is it too much to ask for some more uplifting imagery?
On my part I've continued to show any new staff the painting, and have petitioned the nurses to look into replacing it. Apparently the committee that used to take care of this sort of thing no longer exists on my unit...
In the meantime I guess i'll start letting the staff know that this is actually a happy painting with a happy ending.