Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT April 27th 2020

Forty-five people (from Canada, Mexico, Morocco, the United Kingdom, and the United States) participated in exploring Jennifer Packer’s  2017 painting: “April, Restless.” The first observations involved the color yellow, its brightness emanating off our screens. One person said yellow is his favorite color; another liked the “daffodil” color of spring, the way the dominant color echoed the flowers in the upper left corner; another said yellow causes feelings of friction

While keen observers took in objects such as a typewriter, a photograph of the Pietà, a clipboard and scissors, pens or brushes, a table that is there/not there, and the casters under the chair that the central figure occupies, the presence of a person seated (some said “like a monument”) and looking directly at the viewer, prompted the most discussion. Is it a self-portrait? Does it represent a man, woman, elderly, young age? Because we began without revealing the artist, title, or medium, and participants were asked to “bring new eyes” and slow-look, differing perspectives emerged from the encounters between what oil-on-canvas was visible on our screens and what each person brought to the painting (the beholder’s share).

Repeatedly people brought questions of identity: what shading and skin tones, markings on the legs, and the shape of the feet in the foreground could tell us.

There were comments on what appeared to be the sitter’s discomfort. Some participants (especially from professions in healthcare) were aware that they tended to “medicalize” the stillness, the posture, the left eye open and the right closed or drooping, the position of both hands, and considered possible diagnoses or illnesses that the sitter may live with. One person saw a writer turned away from her typewriter and unable to continue working. When the facilitators showed the slide with the title “April, Restless” many felt confirmed that what appeared as stiffness and stillness, perhaps immobility, reflected the sitter’s restless wish to move. Our own experiences of limited mobility and prolonged sheltering-in-place, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, was also present, and we wondered what we projected onto the painting. NM thrives on these moments of intersubjectivity, when we are able to include ourselves in the knowing and unknowing of a text and others’ points of view.

Our prompt was: “Draw or write about restless April.”

In response to the prompt many participants turned to their April, 2020 and wrote about what they see through the window or walking in nature. Poets, reading aloud what they had written in four minutes, echoed the colors in the painting–not only with forsythia’s bright blooms but also with a robin’s breast, recalling the red spots, on the sitter’s chest, which some viewers had seen as blood and others as red buttons. 

Participants are warmly encouraged to share what you wrote below (“Leave a Reply”), to keep the conversation going here, bearing in mind that the blog of course is a public space where confidentiality is not assured. If you chose to draw, your are welcome to share as well, simply email your visual file to narrativemedicine@columbia.edu and we will add and credit it to the post here.

Please join us for our next session: Wednesday, April 29th at 12pm EDT, with more times listed on our Live Virtual Group Sessions page.

We look forward to seeing you again soon!

April, Restless
(2017) Oil on Canvas
48’’ x 36”
 Jennifer Packer

7 thoughts on “Live Virtual Group Session: 6pm EDT April 27th 2020

  1. Ruth C

    Moving
    Never stopping
    Always busy even in the house
    Even in a quarantine
    Is it only in April?
    Was I restless in March?
    Will I be restless in May?
    Is it a permanent state of being?
    Is restless in the body or the mind or both?
    Can you be restless in your body but not in your mind?
    Can you be restless in your mind but not in your body?
    Ah ha you have to be still to find out.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Rubeeta Gill

    In April,
    The orange-plumed flocks fly
    Unperturbed
    Seemingly in chaos
    But really: in harmony
    There is a direction
    Untouched by the winds
    And so the world unites
    Worried
    Seemingly in fear
    But hopefully: in harmony
    Remember my darling,
    Our souls fly free.

    These words came to mind :). Thank you for hosting a wonderful session!

    – Rubeeta Gill (Toronto, ON)

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Gail Kubrin

    After Restless April by Jennifer Packer

    Breeze rustles the buds on lilacs,
    Stirs the next of the mourning dove.
    Hawk lands on thin tree branch
    high up– swaying precariously in the wind.
    Big fan-shaped tail rudder-like
    undulates
    keeping him upright.

    What rudder now for humans?
    All uncertain, feeling lost,
    but safe, so how complain?
    What wiil change be?
    Will this restless, viral April
    help us steady ourselves
    or will we go on rudderless
    no tail
    flailing?

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Restless April~~

    The mind squirms and wriggles about.
    It is disjointed, flooded with thoughts.
    Life is separated into distant parts.
    No unity, but forced into directions where there is no road map.
    New life is discarded to the shadows.
    Blaring sirens and death tallies covering the landscape.
    Oh, to see the vibrant greens, yellows and pinks of Spring growth.
    Rejuvenation.
    To wish the showers of April wash away the turmoil.
    Awaiting the flowers of May.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dr Yewande Okuleye

    After Restless April by Jennifer Packer

    Living with Dying

    Yellow, is found in green.
    Yellow mellow, and the blues.

    Mottled pink pigments, revealed.
    Exfoliating, Black melanin.

    Restless, to, see me.
    Restless, to, be me.

    Rest, less.
    Rest, more.

    Restless, to die.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. al3793

    I’ve been as busy as usual, but in a different way. Patient care occurs in the office, on the
    phone, on the portal, but also via video and e visits. The phone and portal are busier. The
    system is worried about productivity while an invisible red spotted virus sows it
    pestilence across the globe.

    We’ve sent the medical students away. The residents still need supervision and we must
    keep them safe and protective supplies are precious.

    We are doing a lot of innovation. Virtual meetings virtually every day from the command
    center, medical education, with “Home Warrior” teams and on-line diacritics.

    I write almost every day, walk more often than that, long walks with Laurie, my beloved
    amidst the now waning yellows of forsythia and daffodils,
    yielding to the pinks of Red buds, reds of Crab apples and whites and pinks of Dogwoods.

    All this under a cloud of restless tension that renders me weary at the end of each day.

    Like

    • “As we learn to give thanks for all of life and death, for all of this given world of ours, we find a deep joy. It is the joy of trust, the joy of faith in the faithfulness at the heart of all things. It is the joy of gratefulness in touch with the fullness of life.”
      — David Steindl-Rast

      During this time of confusion and turmoil, the burden lays heavy upon those in healthcare. To all, we owe our deepest gratitude.
      You are a beacon of light to those you guide, to those you treat, to those you love. This time will pass and we all will learn many lessons from it.

      Like

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