The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate,
MD, Senior Contributing Editor.
There is an art to looking, as any fine artist—or scientist or
clinician—can attest. There is a paradox to looking as well: What happens
when the observer is also the observed? Who is the object? Who is the subject?
What transpires between them? And what happens when the observer seals the
exchange of looks in a portrait, where then it is possible for a third observer,
the spectator, to also enter, unseen by either? Artists and scientists from
Van Eyck to Velázquez to Magritte to Heisenberg have pondered the riddle,
but have only succeeded in uncovering deeper layers of the same phenomenon.
In a sense, this is the conundrum Connecticut artist Catherine Christiano
(1962- ) poses in Binoculars (cover ).
It is part of a series of four paintings she recently completed of people
looking through binoculars, sunglasses, a camera lens, or, hidden, playing
the part of voyeur. The common theme of the series is observation, but it
is a special type of observation, one that creates an unequal relationship
between observer and observed: "mechanical eyes," as Christiano terms these
ubiquitous instruments or actions, have no souls. Moreover, they hide the
very windows through which one human soul communicates with another.
Southgate MT. Binoculars. JAMA. 2004;291(1):13. doi:10.1001/jama.291.1.13