Dr. Dugdale’s comments on this image are interesting. She calls it disturbing and indicates that previous drafts were even more disturbing. She compares the depiction of the hospital bed to a coffin. Finally, she suggest that the hiding of this woman’s arms “prompts the viewer to ask whether she has the ability to escape from the encroaching darkness” (page 228).
To me, the most striking part of this image are the woman’s eyes. Dr. Dugdale says that her eyes are “wide open with terror” (page 228). I think her wide open eyes and raised eyebrows suggest panic. Hers seems to be a kind of fear that is inconsistent with rest or peace or vision. Her eyes are wide open in an unfocused way. She is consumed by fear and unable to see anything real. We sometimes use the expression “eyes wide open” to refer to someone who keenly observes a situation and understands what’s going on. By contrast, the wide open eyes of this woman do not suggest perception or understanding but a mind overwhelmed by fear.
I did not initially see a coffin in this image. After reading Dr. Dugdale’s comments, I do see it and find it fascinating. When I lead prayer services at funeral homes, I usually conclude with a blessing of the body of the deceased while saying the words, “eternal rest grant unto her O Lord and let perpetual light shine upon her; may she rest in peace, amen; may her soul and the souls of all the faithful departed through the mercy of God rest in peace, amen.” This image is the opposite of rest and peace. The comparison with a coffin also suggests the gruesome idea of being buried alive and the terror that would elicit. Is the fear of death that this woman is experiencing a kind of living death? Is she already experiencing the horrifying reality that she imagines death to be? Does she imagine death to the “encroaching darkness” that Dr. Dugdale sees in this image?
That’s all I have for this week. I look forward to reading your comments about this “disturbing piece of art.”