DHMC: Positive Exposure
I missed art. The switch to telehealth visits, delays in scheduling appointments of any kind, and restrictive visitor policies meant strolling through DHMC’s many art galleries has been close to impossible. But last week it all changed as I was able to view Positive Exposure’s The New Faces of Genetics and Beyond, an exhibition of portraits by photographer Rick Guidotti, on display in the Williamson Gallery, just off the rotunda on the main floor.
The subject—and vocabulary is important here and I am not certain I will get it right—is genetic differences, or persons with disabilities, or persons with differences. Some differences you have probably heard of (Down’s syndrome, albinism, fragile X), and others (Noonan Syndrome) sent me looking for definitions online.
But before you get to the differences, there are first and foremost faces, beautiful in their unmasked glory and individual expression. In the lower corner of each portrait is a sentence or two of a partial bio: a scientist, an equestrian, more than one swimmer, a small boy (Max, above) whose pleasures include signing autographs after becoming a celebrity on C-SPAN.
Much has been written about “inspirational porn” in depictions of persons with disabilities or differences, where people are presented as objects of pity or, at the other end of the spectrum, as unrelentingly heroic in every one of their life struggles. This exhibition seemed to me to strike the right note in its simplicity, presenting each individual facing the camera, a short list of accomplishments, and a single word describing their difference.
My viewing of this exhibition coincided with my reading of Frank Bruni’s new memoir, The Beauty of Dusk. Bruni, a former op-ed writer and restaurant critic for the New York Times, woke one morning to find he was blind in one eye, with a continuing risk for the same problem in the other, sighted eye. He set off to investigate people who are living their lives with disabilities. And he discovered new insights, and examples of people who flourished not in spite of disabilities, but because of them. One of the observations he makes in the book is that just about everyone is suffering with something, often hidden, and that the world would be a better place if we all wore sandwich boards on which we advertised our frailties.
With the Bruni book in mind, I found myself looking at Rick Guidotti’s photographs and wondering about the very definition of disability, and further, realized that while some disabilities or differences might require self-disclosure on Bruni’s sandwich boards, others announce themselves whether the person wants it to be known or not.
Positive Exposure’s The New Faces of Genetics and Beyond at DHMC, originally scheduled to close in mid-May, has been extended until June 10. Photographer Rick Guidotti will be speaking on May 10 at noon in Auditorium C. His presentation will be available for viewing online. For more information, contact Marianne Barthel, Director, Arts and Humanities Program, at Marianne.L.Barthel@hitchcock.org.
This exhibition is a collaboration from Positive Exposure, the Arts and Humanities Program at Dartmouth-Hitchcock, and the Geisel Ethics and Human Values Program. The exhibition was made possible by the generous support of the Geisel School of Medicine’s Office of Medical Education at Dartmouth, the Ethics Institute at Dartmouth, and The Gertrude H. Mertens Arts Fund at Dartmouth-Hitchcock. Photo, top, with permission of DHMC.
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And in case you are wondering . . . Susan B. Apel shuttered a lifelong career as a law professor to continue an interest (since kindergarten) in writing. Her freelance business, The Next Word, includes literary and feature writing; her work has appeared in a variety of lit mags and other publications including Art New England, The Woven Tale Press, The Arts Fuse, and Persimmon Tree. She connects with her neighbors through Artful, her blog about arts and culture in the Upper Valley. She’s in love with the written word.