By Christian Viveros-Fauné
By Miriam Felton-Dansky
By Tom Sellar
By Tom Sellar
By Jessica Dawson
By Tom Sellar
By R. C. Baker
By Tom Sellar
Now that she's back in the city, at least for visits, her refusal to take herself too seriously also seems unchanged: "People will come up to me and say, 'Cool glasses! But how do you see out of them?' " she says, laughing about her painted-over left lens. "And I have to tell them, 'Well, I don't have an eye.' "
But she still has a remaining one for art. During a recent stroll through the Frick—her first trip to a museum since the injury—she is enraptured.
"Aren't paintings just—delicious?" she asks. She stops in front of Vétheuil in Winter, admiring what she notes is Monet's "simple and effective" use of light and color. She focuses on her increased awareness of depth in a painting—for someone who was fascinated with how eyes work long before her left one was knocked out, that fascination makes sense.
One of the paintings she particularly wants to see is J.M.W. Turner's Antwerp: Van Goyen Looking Out for a Subject. It's a sweeping, dark view of ships in a harbor, the city lightly faint in the distance. She notes the depth Turner has achieved, and talks about how it makes her feel anxious and worried for the passengers in the painting's smallest boat.
And, if anything, she has a greater appreciation for Rembrandt, who is said to have also suffered from stereo blindness and yet still captured depth.
Stopping to study Rembrandt's The Polish Rider, a prime example, Henochowicz leans in, squinting, then laughs. "You know how you will close an eye when you get close to something? I can't do that anymore," she says. It's not the first time her now-useless visual habits have revealed themselves to her. "I'll still roll my eyes," she says, "and I'll feel the muscles rolling my left eye. Only there's no eye there anymore." But if you want to get a sense of how she sees the world yourself, don't bother. According to her, medically, "It's not the same to close one eye or cover one eye as it is to only have one eye to see through."
She muses about Rembrandt's own difficulties, citing studies that have convinced some scholars that he had stereo blindness. "They did this study at the National Portrait Gallery," she says. "Basically, you can tell from a photograph if someone has bad depth perception or not, because you look at where the light is hitting their eyes, and if it is hitting in the same spot. If it's not lining up properly, they have a lazy eye, or one is dominant. There are a lot of artists like that."
Of course, there aren't any photographs of the Dutch master, but he did create some pretty good self-portraits. "When you look at them," she says, pointing at Self-Portrait (1658), "you see one eye is always off to the side. They're not photographs—but it's always the same eye. It's always the opposite eye in etchings, because etchings are in reverse."
She knows full well that eye problems don't stop other contemporary artists. Chuck Close, for example, is not only severely paralyzed but also suffers from prosopagnosia ("face blindness"). His inability to recognize people's faces hasn't stopped him from being an accomplished portraitist.
Earlier that day, Henochowciz had met with a practicing one-eyed painter. It seems to bring her some measure of comfort that she has no barrier in pursuing her art. Naturally, there are still doubts about her physical challenges at the moment. "It's hard—when you're 21, you're otherwise healthy, but you're broken," she says. "It's tough." But after the surgery to clean up the void where her eye used to be, she says, "I kept telling myself, you only need one eye, you only need one eye, you really only need one eye."
That's all Duncan Garp needed. The character in John Irving's The World According to Garp loses an eye but still grows up to be an accomplished photographer and painter. She has listened to the audiobook since her injury, and in real life, she is learning that artists often turn problems into gains. The one-eyed painter whom she just met, for example, does work that is very different from hers. But she says she was happy to learn that they're both enamored of squares.
"It makes sense," she says. "I mean, I've always loved squares. But now, squares make even more sense to me." One's field of vision is limited with one eye, she says, and "wide-screen is about your depth."
How that translates to media other than painting, she's not sure. She hasn't seen a movie since what she calls the "incident." "Not yet," she says, pausing, "but I'm supposed to go see Despicable Me with my brother." She laughs about going to the 3-D movie: "I think if I wear the 3-D glasses," she says, "I can see it in 2-D. I hope so. I'd hate to have a headache all through the movie."
But the evidence is that she's not afraid of having to see things differently. Shortly after her surgery in Jerusalem, she says, she awoke during the middle of the night and did her first drawing with one eye. It's an abstract, unlike much of what she describes as her "very subjective journalism."