"Sight is always there even when you’ve lost it, immersed in darkness, eyes closed, unconscious, there is sight… even there, there are nightmares. Visions and scenes projected on the black screens of our closed eyelids. Our mind’s eye. The Third eye. Spirit’s eye spins scenes of our most raw realities, deepest fear and anxiety and the stowed-away wisdom of other existences, together with channeled frequencies of the guidance of spirits. We call them dreams but they are everything seen and unseen unfolding all at once for us to discern, learn from. There, in chaos, in despair, in darkness, in sleep, in death, is sight.” (From "The Eye", piece I wrote in the summer of 2020)
A year ago today I stepped through some of the deepest fear I have ever experienced, undergoing an emergency eye surgery. No one, and certainly not an artist, wants to hear the words “operate or lose your sight.” The morning of my diagnosis I was reading a piece I had written, not having remembered that I had written it. A piece I called The Eye. It spoke to spirit sight and access to sight always, even in absence of the physical faculty of sight. Several hours later, upon hearing the dreaded words from the ophthalmologist, I remembered the piece I had read that morning. I remembered a decade of being fascinated with, of painting, darkness and the light of bioluminescence harnessed through darkness. I had been prepared for that moment. Doesn’t mean I wasn’t scared shitless cause I was. But I was also deeply, powerfully guided through the whole process, the surgery, the grueling recovery with wiry stitches and more in my eye, required to be face down and sleep flat on my face 24/7 for two weeks then sleep that way for two months. Two months of minimal sleep and having obstructed/ blurred then strange-ass vision of floating bubbles and pulsating horizons in that eye.
It was all worth it, all part of my own necessary process. Thanks to science, the spirits that be, bioluminescent creatures and the lessons they teach, a year later I can see. Though not the same as before, it is ok because I am not the same person. New iterations of me, new times, require new sight, new vision for this commemoration coinciding with a new moon. A year later, I am reading and painting again through both eyes, which mostly function as one.
To commemorate this eye journey of mine, this piece, Nautilus/ The Eye, was inspired by a vision I had at my surgeon’s office the day after my surgery. After they removed my bandage and checked my eye, I found myself sitting in the Waiting Room staring at my lap trying to make sense of this weird vision. One eye seeing ok, the other eye blocked by a gas bubble, unable to see except for a blurred cloud. Back hunched over, needing to keep my face flat down, I stared at the dark denim of my jeans over my thighs. Suddenly, eyes open, two visions became one. Before me stretched a black vastness of space. Jagged triangular stones of black and indigo spiraled inward towards a deep descent. From the bottom, a resplendent green light radiated out and up towards me shooting green rays like the luciferin of fireflies from between the triangles.
I gasped, still sitting in this surgeon’s waiting room yet knowing that my vision of all three eyes had transported me elsewhere. I never forgot that image. Even tried to draw it with one eye, while lying face down in my bed in the weeks following. A year later, as the date of that surgery circles back I was called to look deeper into that spiral. I wanted to understand what I had seen. For years here in Borikén, I had contemplated the spirals of the juracán, on the shell of the caracol that clung to our papaya trees. I’ve spent the last years painting the bioluminescence of this archipelago against black backgrounds in the glowing green and blue of fireflies and dinoflagellates. In recent years I’ve been searching the abyss for the unique glowing creatures of our trench and their lessons on sustainability as we move through this apocalyptic stretch of impossible austerity and capitalist colonial climatic catastrophe.
My search brought me to the nautilus. Though I hadn’t seen a nautilus that day at the retinologist’s office, what I had indeed seen was echoed in the shape of the nautilus. The pattern on the exterior part of the nautilus shell is reminiscent of what I saw, but in learning more about this animal, I was mostly memorized by what lies inside the shell. Searching creatures of the abyss for lessons in sustainability, the nautilus is referred to as the “living fossil” for the over 400, 000 million years they’ve inhabited this Earth, having survived various waves of extinction on this planet, outlasting the dinosaurs. They travel vertically up and down the sea column. Descend to the Twilight Zone (area where sunlight no longer penetrates) then back up towards the surface. To assist in their travels, they trap or expel water from the internal chambers of their shell controlling their buoyancy.
The nautilus brought me to the Golden Ratio, the Fibonacci Sequence, associated numeric patterns that govern the spirals I have long been drawn to—spirals in the human body, forms in nature, in flowers, in winds and storms, in galaxies.
Eight years ago, my palette started to be influenced by color associations to the chakras or the body’s energetic system. In the case of this painting, I used shades of green, aqua and indigo representing the Heart, Throat and Third Eye chakras, the colors I saw in my vision. It was only after I began painting it that I saw a human eye emerge from the center of the nautilus shell. I’ve included small representations of the nerves and vessels in the eye surrounding a central pupil. Any eye or retina patient knows the challenge of having your pupils dilated then having painfully bright lights shone into them during intense eye exams. The chambers of the nautilus shell and their spiral formation remind me of the leaves formed around the aperture of a manual camera. Camera settings allow you to adjust the aperture to accept more or less light. When you snap the photo, the aperture opens and shuts, allowing in just the right amount of light so that the image is projected, upside down onto a mirror in the back of the camera, which records it onto a film. This incredible machine known as the camera is of course designed after a more perfect machine: our exquisite eyes. The aperture that expands and contracts, allowing more or less light into our eye is of course the pupil and the mirror recording the upside-down image from the light entering our pupil is our retina.
As my retinas heal, as my body prompts me to eat the foods that will nurture both my retinas, my spirit seeks out perfect manifestations of light, form, and sight on this Earth and in the cosmos. The more I turn inward during the healing process, the more I see a mirror reflecting the perfect intricacies of our greater natural world, here and beyond.
In closing, this is a friendly reminder in this age of technology screens, as the northern hemisphere enters colder, darker months: love up on your eyes. Pause for twenty seconds, every twenty minutes when on-screen by focusing on something at least twenty feet away. Step outside, no sunglasses. Let natural daylight penetrate your eyes. Focus on faraway trees, birds in the sky, clouds. Shift your gaze from up close to far away. This constant focus on super close images creates more tension on the eyes of those like me who have long dealt with myopia (I have been dependent on glasses since the age of eight.) Get your eyes checked every year without fail. Though a month of flashing lights sent me to the doctor mid-pandemic, it was too late for one eye. I could have avoided surgery if it had been caught sooner, read: regular routine eye exam. Eat for your eyes. Vitamins A/ C/ D/ E. Anything orange, (sweet potatoes, carrots cooked). Any vitamin C should be raw (oranges/ red peppers). Vitamin E is in egg yolks, nuts, and olive oil. Blessings to all eyes that read this, all eyes that see in myriad forms, even through darkness, especially Third Eyes.