Health Care and Ambiguity

Harry Brorby
The Operation
lithograph on paper
22 1/16 x 30 1/8 in. (55.9 x 76.5 cm)
Museum Purchase
This print shows an abstracted nude woman on her back, holding a child in the air above her. The child is stretching one hand out towards a white bird at the top left. Both woman and child are looking at the bird and the atmosphere is playful.
Baltasar Lobo
lithograph on paper
13 1/8 in x 19 7/8 in (33.3 cm x 50.5 cm);22 1/16 in x 28 1/16 in (56.04 cm x 71.28 cm);15 1/16 in x 22 3/8 in (38.2 cm x 56.8 cm);12 13/16 in x 19 7/8 in (32.5 cm x 50.48 cm)
Museum Purchase
A large figure in orange with yellow polka dots crouches over five small pink figures who are holding the orange figure up. The symbol for women is drawn in green inside the large orange figure. The background is a flourscent green and the ground is yellow.<br />
<br />
EC 2017
Keith Haring
print on paper
42 in. x 4 ft. 2 1/4 in. (106.68 x 127.64 cm);44 in. x 4 ft. 3 in. x 1 in. (111.76 x 129.54 x 2.54 cm)
Gift of Dr. Richard Goldberg
Sam Francis
color lithograph on paper
25 3/4 x 19 15/16 in. (65.4 x 50.5 cm);32 1/8 x 26 1/8 in. (81.44 x 66.2 cm);25 13/16 x 19 7/8 in. (65.41 x 50.48 cm)
Museum Purchase
A vertical line of pills from the top of the canvas to the bottom. Stamped with information on the lower right indicating date, title, type of pills and signature.
Buky Schwartz
pills and paint on canvas
28 1/4 in. x 20 1/4 in. ( 71.76 cm x 51.44 cm )
Gift in honor of Dr. E. Bryce and Harriet Alpern, by their children

Harry Brorby's The Operation may well be a depiction of medical experimentation on a human being, or torture in the guise of medicine. But we can also interpret this image as a visual representation of emotional or dream states. Maybe this is nothing other than a conventional operation that the patient is experiencing as a nightmare. Apart from a general fear of doctors that the patient may have, what do we see the human agents (the patient and the doctors) doing in this scene that might explain why this medical procedure has spiraled into a personal hell for the patient?

1) Let's first talk about what we see. Describe the image together.

2) What visual information do you get from the artwork that you can interpret in multiple ways at the same time? 

3) Look at the people's eyes. Many are meeting our gaze. With which figures do we feel a kind of connection?

4) With whom is the patient communicating? What are they communicating? Are there multiple emotional states we can read in their face?

5) What are the doctors doing? How are they feeling? How are they presenting themselves to the viewer?

6) What sort of understanding or empathy do the doctors portray for the patient?

7) If this is just a normal operation, who is seeing at as a nightmare? Why? 


Another work of art in which we can find a powerful visual and emotional dynamic produced by multi-perspectival ambiguity is Baltasar Lobo's Maternidad. 

Is the child scrambling wildly to get free and reach the bird, or is it being swept up in a dangerous wind? Is the mother carefully assisting the child to reach up to the bird, or is she grasping to hold on to a child that has suddenly escaped her?

What does the visual ambiguity about these mother-child interrelations enable this image to say about maternity?


0 Tags & 0 Keywords


5 Collection Object Sources

The Operation (1965/2.16)
Maternidad (1951/2.50)
Untitled (1993/2.63)
Untitled (1969/1.109)
Relax (2012/1.222)

Rate this Resource

AVG: 0 | Ratings: 0

& Author Notes

Creative Commons by-nc-sa

Last Updated

April 12, 2021 9:38 a.m.


Reporting Policy