I Give My Eyes… is both spiritual autobiography and a story of healing and salvation. Author, artist, and museum curator Brian H. Peterson looks back on a creative life and reflects on his own search for the deeper layers, the “substrata.” In poetic prose, he ties together private and public, inward and outward journeys, struggling with the realities of advancing Parkinson’s disease while discovering an affirmation of belief that embraces suffering and doubt.
A reflection on faith, art, and Peterson’s ongoing battle with Parkinson’s disease, I Give My Eyes… employs bittersweet humor, clear-eyed nostalgia. The book is a collection of interviews Peterson gave with friends and colleagues, a number of stories and prose, and even a dedication speech Peterson gave for the library and research center named for him at the Michener Art Museum. Throughout these sections of writing, photographs by and of Peterson are included.
The writing is largely conversational in style, with a fair amount of rhetoric. The interviews feel direct and present, and only lightly edited — which is refreshing to read. For anyone with a background in visual arts, there is plenty of meat to the stories and aside comments Peterson makes. He doesn’t beat around the bush much, and unabashedly talks about the process of him writing, and readers reading this book. Peterson even goes so far as to tell the reader to be careful. The reader doesn’t know him yet; maybe he is a bitter misanthrope who takes pleasure in messing with people with clever wordsmithing? This cheeky attitude in the prologue reminded me of an interview Gene Wilder gave about his role as Willy Wonka in the 1971 film. Wilder recalled for the interview how his character first appeared on screen. Willy Wonka walks slowly with a cane toward the viewer, when he suddenly vaults into a somersault, pops to his feet and joyfully continues walking with a smile on his face. Wilder said that in doing this, the viewer is forced to question whether they can believe anything Wonka does from that point forward. I don’t believe Peterson is out to deceive his readers; rather he is telling them to bring some healthy skepticism along for the ride.
Peterson walks through the somber topic of Parkinson’s Disease in a generally lighthearted manner, with gallows humor thrown in for good measure. He is obviously a well educated and well informed person. His career work as a curator, arts administrator and writer shine through in his stories, and we are given the opportunity to get to know a man who has dedicated his life to the things he loves. From a visual standpoint, Peterson’s photographs evoke a feeling similar to photographic giants like Minor White, Brett Weston, and even Jerry Uelsmann; artists who made images that invite the viewer to look at the world surrounding them. Really look, be open to possibility, and be skeptical.
I Give My Eyes… : Stories + Conversations + Dreams
by Brian H. Peterson
Due Santi Press
Hard Cover ISBN: 978–0–9990375–1–5
Originally published at F-Stop Magazine.