This Q&A series focuses on artists contributing to the #ArtisticVisionPgh project cosponsored by Most Wanted Fine Art and Penn Avenue Eyewear. Today, we talk with Brian Cottington. I wanted to take a moment to point out that Brian describes a concrete example of how people “stretch” their vision health services to the point that it can cause damage to their vision. So while folks might have some vision health supports, they are definitely under-served.
Name: Brian Cottington
How old were you when you first had to wear glasses? I first started wearing glasses when I was around 18 years old. For most of my time in high school I was considered “borderline” when it came to my vision; I wasn’t quite in need of glasses yet, but I also didn’t have the sharpest eyes either. So for a time I actually thought it was “normal” that most things far away from me were blurry. It wasn’t until I got glasses for my driver’s license that I realized that my eyes were the problem.
How old were you when you had to pay for the glasses you wear? I held onto that first pair of glasses for a very very long time. I actually started paying for contacts when I was in my early 20’s and relied on those for a number of years. It wasn’t until I had scratched my cornea while wearing contacts that I decided to switch back to glasses and purchase a new pair. That was when I was 27 I believe.
Have you ever had to “fix” your own glasses with tape, string, glue, etc? I had the stupid tiny screw pop out once and had to use electrical tape to keep the lens tight with the frame once. That was fun.
Tell me about a character in literature, film, television or other pop culture who wore glasses and how that resonated with you for good or for bad. I always was partial to David Tennant when he wore glasses in Doctor Who episodes. I don’t know if it really resonated with me one way or another, but I always thought it was comedic when he would wear glasses, since he obviously didn’t need them.
Describe your relationship with your glasses now. The relationship has been the same as before…..They help me see.
There’s a pervasive stigma about wearing glasses for young and old, but an equally pervasive idea that glasses indicate intelligence (or hipness.) Explain that duality. I definitely don’t view them as a status symbol on one’s intelligence. I mean look at someone like Texas Governor, Rick Perry who thinks that slapping on a pair of dark rimmed glasses suddenly gives you the allure of intelligence. I do believe that they are more accepted as a fashion statement though. I mean a few years back there were rarely any celebrities that viewed glasses as anything attractive, hence why they all were wearing contacts, but now it isn’t thought of as “unattractive”.
Can you describe how the cost of vision health services has had a negative impact on your life? Well when I was wearing contacts for example, I did have to stretch their usage due to the high cost of a single box of contacts. Part of the reason the scratched cornea occurred was due to the stretching of the contact lens use.
Tell me about your work for this exhibit. I am producing a video about the exhibit and the artists who will be creating the different styles of eyewear based on the wooden frames from Penn Ave Eyewear.
How can readers learn more about your work? Right now, I am promoting my award-winning, feature-length documentary, House of Oddities: The Story of the Atrocity Exhibition. The film is a behind the scenes look at the annual Atrocity Exhibition held at the Rex Theater in May. The film showcases the different burlesque, sideshow, performing artists, and fine artists that encompass the 360 degree living art exhibit. So far it has been awarded Best Director at the Horror Realm Independent Film Festival and 2nd Place-Documentary Competition at the International Indie Gathering. Info about the film can be found at houseofodditiesmovie.com, @odditiesfilm on twitter, and facebook: houseofodditiesmovie.
Thank you Brian.