if you believe that a picture is worth a thousand words, then i have some stories to share with you.
beneath the Permafrost
50 Digital Prints, Copyright 2010 - 2014.
I discovered in 2009, that I have an hereditary version of the degenerative retina disease, retinoschisis. Apparently, I am very lucky that my vision has not been impaired by it much earlier as some varieties start in childhood. The disease causes acuity loss to the point of blindness. On a routine annual eye exam, my opthalmologist discovered the cysts. In the space of a year, my retina had become perforated in several places and cysts were also separating the layers of the retina. She sent me immediately to a retina specialist, who in turn said that I needed immediate surgery to forestall blindness.
A week later I was in surgery at The Wilmer Eye Clinic at Johns Hopkins University Hospital in Baltimore. I had a team of three surgeons working on me for about two hours and I had a couple of different types of surgery, including cryo- and laser. I also had a vitrectomy, removing the vitreous fluid in the eye, a gas bubble injection, and they implanted a permanent silicon band known as a scleral buckle.
While there is no cure for the disease, the procedures above bought me some time. I am also blessed to have great medical insurance and doctors, as well as the financial cushion to support my decision to go ahead with the surgeries. While the surgery went very well, my recovery, not so much. I scratched my cornea the first night which turned the "moderate" pain into excruciating pain. I could do no strenuous activity (like lifting anything over ten pounds), basically anything that might jostle the eye or affect the pressure in the eye. I couldn't bend over for the duration of recovery. I had to hold my head in the same position as much as possible including during sleep.for six weeks!
I was a bit scared through the initial recovery process as my vision was much worse after the surgery, plus the pain was nearly unbearable. My mind easily wandered to thoughts of what will I do if I loose my sight? How will I make art? I had only been pursuing my vision, pun intended, of making art full time for the past five years. It didn't take too many "Whoa is me" moments to shake me out of it and into action. I have little tolerance for whining, especially my own. I'm a do something kind of guy. Gradually my vision cleared and eventually stabilized within the year to near normal. However, I had to start wearing glasses again. I had worn glasses since second grade but had been free of them after Lasik surgery in my early 40's. .While a bit discouraged about the future, I began to develop a long-term strategy and a short-term action plan.
As a painter, I work large. I work vigorously. I work on the floor. All of these were precluded by my prescription for recovery just outlined. I decided to return to my experiments with digital art making from four years earlier when I was in my first and second semesters of graduate art school. While I love the physicality of my painting process. I actually enter shamanic trance, much like a dervish, while painting. With this plan, I could "paint" on my laptop and journey while laying in bed. And for the future, I decided to take some sculpture classes at local schools My thought was, if or when I lost my sight I could still sculpt but painting would most likely be out of the question. I was comforted by having a plan b and a plan c, and proud of myself for not wallowing in a depressing sea of maybe and that I took positive action.
In 2004, as part of my first semester of graduate school study plan, Rick and I went to northwestern India for nearly a month. My focus for organizing the trip was based on observing scheduled religious festivals and visiting temples and other holy sites. Included among those sites, was the 9th century temple complex at Khajuraho in the middle of a rain forest. The temples, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, are encrusted from dome to base with relief sculptures and friezes depicting scenes from history, mythology, nature, and daily life. They are renown for the depictions from the kama sutra as well. I was stunned to see vivid sex scenes decorating a temple. I couldn't help but think how different Western culture might be if our Abrahamic religions celebrated sex and the cycle and wonders of life instead of a repressive view of sexuality. I was amazed by the juxtaposition and equalization of the sacred and the profane.
From graduate school forward I have tried to understand what makes holy land. I find the entirety of Earth to be holy land. I returned from India with the idea to create something sacred, a representation of holy land, out of something profane. I digitally painted shamanic landscapes, sourced from publicly available homosexual erotica and manipulated through Photoshop. I was literally queering the landscape; hopefully to create spiritual maps for viewers to journey into by meditation, to create liminal space. With these new works, I used the same process for the same goals but also to bring attention to climate change and its impact on the Arctic and Antarctica. My vision is that these are large scale and in some cases towering scale. billboard sized prints. While I was inspired to create these canyon lands through shamanic journey work., NASA satellite imagery and other aerial photos also helped me to ground my revealed canyons as possible reality-based land forms under the permafrost
Copyright 2016. Chuck Rounds. All Rights Reserved.