Artists interested in submitting work, click here.
Alma of the Yucca (Spirit of the Yucca)
In Her Own Words:
At the prime of my life, I was diagnosed with macular degeneration, which changed my life. However, it guided me to a new world, where I am starting a new life and enjoying it. My art has changed, too, but it is impossible for me to imagine not doing it, for it gives me life.
Contact: (915) 261-5555, or email: email@example.com
Limestone, Stained with Oils
27” x 23” x 6”
Robin Antar has been blind in one eye from birth, due to RFP (too much oxygen), but was not aware of this until she was 16 years old. She refers to herself as having "unbalanced vision," which she regards as an extraordinary art gift rather than as an affliction.
During the 1980s, while she was working in tinted limestone, the artist felt her "gift" gave her sculptures an "uncommon perspective, jarring color, an anomalous form." She was not concerned with aesthetic beauty or superficial thought, only her fundamental feelings and basic sensations. She feels the line of vision, seeing at close range, the texture and color are very important to the final statement of the piece.
More recently, Antar has been creating a record of modern culture, primarily in stone. An example of this is shown here.In Her Own Words:
My mission as a sculptor is to create a visual record of modern culture by capturing contemporary everyday objects in stone. By replicating the model on a life-scale, along with markings and symbol details, I attempt to freeze the obvject in time as an artistic form of artifact. I achieve a high degree of realism through the use of such materials as parts of the real object, custom-made stains, paints, plastics and golf leaf.
Acrylic on canvas
50" x 70"
Esref Armagan is a congenitally blind figurative artist from Turkey. Born to a poor family in Istanbul, Esref made his first pictures with a nail on the cardboard boxes his father brought home from work. He received no support or understanding from his environment. Like many other blind children in Turkey, he had no formal schooling, as people did not think him capable of learning. Later he taught himself how to write. Armagan remembers that he has always had an instinctive knowledge that he could make pictures. This internal conviction kept him working on his art.
In his own words:
I started painting and drawing when I was six or seven. I started actually drawing shapes when I was ten or eleven. I started using colored pencils when I was fifteen or sixteen. About the age of twenty-three, I started using oil paints… I am really curious about beauty…People who can see are always talking about beautiful things that I cannot see.
Acrylic on canvas
50" x 70"
Acrylic on canvas
40" x 60"
Acrylic on canvas
50" x 70"
|Music of Life
Mesquite wood with inlaid copper at base, 62” high with 24”-diameter base
Mitchell Caviness was born in Robbins, North Carolina, a small rural town southwest of Raleigh/Durham. He began carving wood at the age of nine. “My brothers and I would make our toys out of wood and other found materials,” says the carver, who is the youngest child in a family of five sons. The competitive spirit among the brothers was a driving force in the development of Mitchell’s carving skills, and he says that the craft spawned his passion for the visual arts.
“My father was a carpenter and a cabinetmaker in his spare time. Watching him display his love for building and working with wood also played a large part in my development and patience for working in the visual arts. My mother was a seamstress and quilt maker. Watching her eye for detail showed me at an early age how one stitch can make a difference,” he says.
While in the military – Mitchell is a former 101st airborne ranger – he spent his spare time sketching and drawing. Later, he worked as a display artist in New York City, Long Island, and New Jersey. He also worked as a props master at New York City’s Beacon Theater, at 42nd Street and Broadway, and as assistant stage manager and prop master at the Brooklyn Academy of Music. Today he has his own company: Wood Sculptors Splinters.
In his own words:
Since my vision loss my art work has taken a different direction; I like to include texture to most of my pieces, and I also like to include a way to incorporate the sense of hearing into my art. I have overcome my visual challenge by slowing down and understanding the materials that I am working with, and by having a plan in place for executing each of my projects.
“Music of Life,” the piece shown here, has a textile finish, so a person who is visually impaired can feel the grain of the wood. This guitar and the base say to the viewer, who may or may not be visually impaired, how sound and texture can be translated through sculpture. When you speak into the base of the sculpture your voice changes and it reverberates sound back into your face. When viewing this work of art, I would like for the public to experience sight, sound, touch, and their imagination to hear the music that could be played with this guitar.Web site: www.thewoodsculptorssplinters.com
Toni L. Christenson
Toni Christenson uses the traditional art form of quilling, creating works of art out of long, thin strips of rolled paper. What began as a hobby ultimately evolved into a full-time job. As her vision worsens due to glaucoma, she relies on touch and memory in order to continue quilling holiday decorations. Christenson can distinguish between light and dark in her left eye, while barely identifying shapes six feet away with her right eye.
In 1993 Christenson quilled an angel for the White House Christmas tree. She also created centerpieces and table favors for the Governor’s Commission on Disabilities in Austin, Texas in 2002. She has recently published her own catalog and continues to construct Christmas decorations year-round.
Artist in her own words:
Paper has always caught my attention. I remember it was a subject of choice for a one-semester project back in elementary school. Perhaps that is why a quilling book with a package of paper caught my eye when I was looking for a hobby many years later. Now that hobby is my vocation.
When my decreasing vision made activities impossible, I was able to continue quilling by using touch. For over two decades, I have created dozens of items decorated with my quilling. Through time my work has evolved. I now concentrate on Christmas ornaments – mostly angels – along with Santas, florals, Easter eggs, and framed pieces.
Contact: T.L.C Crafts (830) 796-3055
Oil pastels, 32” x 25” (framed)
Price (with frame): $475
When she was just ten months old, Joy Cyr was diagnosed as having bilateral retinoblastoma, cancer of the retina. Her doctors felt there was no alternative but to immediate enucleate (remove) her right eye; they hoped to save her left eye and struggled to destroy the cancer in it for the next 2-1/2 years. “In spite of heroic efforts on the part of many medical professionals,” Joy says, “when I was 3-1/2 years old my left eye was enucleated.”
Joy feels blessed that she retains clear memories of those early years of sight. “More than 30 years later I am still able to recall places, scenes and objects in vivid detail and breathtaking color,” says the artist, who was born in Montreal, Canada, in 1975.
As a child – before and after she lost her sight – Joy enjoyed working with crayons, watercolors, and finger paints. Later, she was taught how to sculpt and worked with various media, from soap stone to clay, and experimented with zinc and copper. She also was taught the basic principles of shading with colors, in order to achieve particular effects. “These were lessons I later put to good use when applying cosmetics,” she notes.
During her final year of high school, her art teacher introduced her to pastels, and suggested ways to outline her work so that she could feel where she was applying the pastels. Delighted with the success of the first picture made with this technique, she spent several weeks in “enthusiastic composition.” However, she soon found that while she could achieve some wonderful effects using this outlining technique, the results were not the kind of realistic pictures she imagined and desperately wished to draw. Eventually, she quit working with pastels and began expressing her creativity with fibers and textiles. “In such crafts as knitting and weaving, I am able to follow through on the images in my mind. But they leave my longing to create with color largely unsatisfied,” she says. Thus she is once again creating artworks with oil pastels, the medium she used for the artwork shown here.
In her own words:
Colors are probably what I have consistently most missed. They have always held a fascination for me. Learning how the spectrum is constructed -- how the light refracts to make the colors, and how the primaries blend to make secondary colors, as well as the infinite wonder and variety of shade and depths that can be created -- was probably the science lesson that had the most permanent impact on my personal life. . . The abstract drawings I now create are the perfect medium in which I can spread and blend the colors I love.
|Kalia Daman (Slaying of the Black Serpant)
Mixed-media on canvas 76” x 59”
Vinod Dave is a mixed media artist whose visual impairment is caused by myopia and also accident. Vinod lost vision in his right eye from an automobile accident. While carrying canvases in a three-wheeler in 1978, a crash made a painting hit his eye, tearing the pupil. After few years, this caused retinal tear in the left eye.
In his own words:
“Seeing with only one eye that has limited vision has provided me with a different way of "seeing" that has lack of spatial depth and, therefore, my work uses graphic mark making (like letters, hard edged lines and geometrical shapes) juxtaposed with fluidly painted forms as a substitute for the missing element.”
| Potter's Wheel
12" x 9"
An artist from an early age, Carmelo C. Gannello attended the National Academy of Design in New York City from 1937 to 1940. It wasn't until 1976, however, that he earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from the Art Institute of Chicago. Through the years, he has worked with oil, conte, pastel, watercolor, linocut, and mixed media. His work can be found in the Museum of the City of New York, the Art Institute of Chicago, the University of Illinois, AMOCO, and in many private collections.
In His Own Words:
At first, I worked in a representational style, but with the onset of my visual impairment (retinal detachment), I changed to an abstract style. The subject for my abstract work is based on the circles and orbs that are actual patches of blackness that I experience – patches that are frequently illuminated by bright flashes.
Contact: Carmelo Gannello, PO Box 2272, Oak Park, IL 60303
| Wood leg closeup in lounge
Charcoal on paper,
24" by 18"
New York artist Devorah Greenspan earned a B.A. degree from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, where she majored in history. She also participated in an Academic Year Abroad program in Bonn, Germany, where she studied at the Rheinische Fredrich-Wilhelms Universitat. A few years ago, Devorah tells us, she enrolled in a drawing class. Prior to that she considered creating visual artwork, aside from doodling, "off limit," due to her vision loss. "I visually test around the administrative line for 'legally blind,'" Devorah explains.
Today, she enjoys drawing and painting, as well as writing and digital photography. Her artworks have been featured at New York City’s Viridian Gallery, Object Image Gallery, the Bay Ridge Art Fair, and the Educational Alliance. If you’re interested in exhibiting or purchasing the artist’s work, contact her directly at the email address listed below
In Her Own Words:
Whereas writing builds an image in the readers’ mind, visual art sets the information before the eye, hopefully in multiple layers of meaning. A still life work can be representative of an object. It can also explore tonality, light and depth. My still life work is Disegno. I don’t use rulers for drawing edges. I intellectually experiment with reaching beyond the limits of my physical vision. Other works take recognizable shapes, adding elements of abstraction and elements of the Colore philosophy. I draw and paint with the recognition of form, yet details can be omitted if I don’t have a visual concept of them. Life experiences, culture and available technology are expressed in these works.
Bruce Hall has been a scuba diver and underwater photographer since 1983. As an elementary school teacher in Costa Mesa, California, he often used his photography to share his knowledge of local ocean life in the classroom to engage his students. Macro, or close-up, photography enables Bruce, who is legally blind, to identify specific features of plant and animal life living along the southern California coastline as well as to study and to enjoy the undersea world after he has left it. He continues to explore, using photography and technology to observe, perceive, then capture his impressions.Bruce’s work has been published in textbooks and magazines (including National Geographic), and shown in juried art exhibitions around the United States. In the summer of 2006, Bruce won a "highly honored" award in the Nature's Best Photography Magazine Windland Rice Smith International Awards Competition. The winning photograph, "Giant Kelp," was on display at the National Museum of Natural History at the Smithsonian, Washington, DC, from October 2006 until October 2007.
In His Own Words:
I make photographs with borrowed eyes, robot eyes. Without these machines I would miss out on much in the visual world. In my mind's eye I connect with the energy around me, and capture impressions to express what I'm feeling, and my fascination with nature, and the world.
|Flight of the Birdmen (we can articulate our shadows).
Acrylic, stone, watercolor cartoon & original poem,
24" X 47"
Price: $NZ 1,400
Brent Harpur was born in Timaru, New Zealand, and has been drawing cartoons since the age of five. He started losing his eyesight, due to a hereditary corneal disease, at the age of eleven; various cornea grafts have restored limited vision to his left eye. At High School Brent excelled in English, largely because of an art teacher who disliked cartoons. In the late 1980s Brent moved to Wellington, where he attended a small, private art school and learned the basics of painting and color theory. In the early 1990s, influenced by an involvement in amateur theater, he began offering cartooning classes to both adults and children.
Brent has been exhibiting his artworks since the late 1980s. His paintings contain elements of impressionism, largely influenced by a Van Gogh exhibition he visited in 1993. He is also inspired by Keith Haring, Marc Chagall, and Latin-American visual-art, music, literature and architecture. In 2005 Brent visited Brazil, where he was given the opportunity to teach art to children at the Supreme Court of Justice (in Brasilia). He works extensively with people who are elderly and disabled, and in 2007, Brent taught blind/low vision children how to create cartoons & 3D art.
In his own words:
After experiencing Van Gogh firsthand, my style of art completely changed! I rediscovered a love for color, turning to impressionist styles and a fascination for capturing the chaos and movement of the sea. Sculptural, more tactile elements (stones and pebbles) have also become a feature of my works, as has original poetry and prose. Recent themes include: celebrating my Maori (native NZ) and Celtic (Irish/Scottish) ancestry; my deteriorating eyesight and how this affects my styles/methods of applying paint; and an on-going passion for Latin-American literature and culture.
|The Wind-Up Penguin Meets Santa Claus
Acrylic on Plywood, 8" x 10"
Terence Healy, a portrait painter, has congenital unilateral anophthalmia. He was born without a right eye, and has myopia and a large number of floaters, or defects, in the vitreous fluid in his left eye. He sees with much less depth perception than most people. (He describes his sight as "looking through a glass of pond water with amoebas swimming around.") At age 20, while attending engineering school, Healy began painting in his free time. But after working as a mechanical engineer for ten years, he decided he would be happier as a full-time painter.
Healy, who notes that he has "get up close to his subject in order to see detail," specializes in portraits of people and of toys. He uses acrylic on watercolor board, plywood, or canvas. Most of his works are small, about eight by ten inches.
In His Own Words:
I love to paint people-I love to look at faces, at the human figure, how it moves, how it expresses all sorts of things. All people have some element of dignity to them, have an energy, have stories to tell, and I feel these things when I look at them.
My job is in the making of the painting, and I seem to paint more easily and joyfully when it's coming from my core rather than my brain.Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
|West Side Morning
Oil On Canvas 36” x 54”
I am legally blind, and because of this, my view of the world is inherently simplified. Forms, to me, are not so much separate, distinct, and concrete items suspended in space, as they are scintillating particles and fields of light interacting - relating with each other to create a believable world of which I am a part. Ironically, my handicap, which on the surface has blinded my vision of the world, has actually allowed me to look much more closely at the world and to see what is truly there; Light and the Knowing Perceiver, apart from which there would be no world. It is from this vision that I construct these images, and it is an experience of that vision that these images intend to convey.
In his own words:
One's vision is one's world. Whether I turn my gaze outside or within, the one element that is constant is the presence of light in its infinite and ever changing variety of expression.
|Snowy Perched Blue Jay
Acrylics on Illustration Board,
8” x 10”
(Available as a giclée print for $25, plus tax/shipping)
John D. (JD) Lewis is a graduate of Luzerne County Community College, Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, where he earned an associate degree in commercial art. During the 1980s, he worked from home as a freelance artist. Although he has produced graphic design projects and various types of illustration for local Pennsylvania companies, wildlife and nature have always been his specialty.
As a child he knew that he wanted to be an artist, however, he says, “my eyesight was dramatically different from that of my family and friends.” What he didn’t realize, until he was diagnosed with retinitis pigmentosa at age 16, was that he was losing much of his peripheral vision, in addition to having night blindness. “Despite having only a field of vision of 8 to 10 degrees by my early 20s, I never let it get in the way of pursuing my career as an artist,” he says.
John is also a lifelong lover of wildlife and the outdoors, and spent many hours in the woodlands of Pennsylvania photographing animals and scenery as reference for his wildlife paintings and illustrations. By age 23, he had produced the cover art for a small Pennsylvania fishing publication. Later commissions included art for other outdoor publications, including Pennsylvania Angler and Northeast Huntin’ & Fishin’.
Noting that his artistic success has been “quite modest from a commercial standpoint,” he believes that pursuing his art has enriched his development of self-discipline, patience, and an unrelenting desire to achieve perfection. “It is these acquired virtues that positively impacted my later employment ventures and continue to do so today,” he notes.
In 1987, John entered the BBVS Business Enterprise Training Center, Harrisburg, where he earned a certificate in foodservice and restaurant management. He then spent 13 years successfully managing two separate foodservice facilities.
In 2009, the artist’s “Blind Spots – A Visual Simulation of RP Vision” was selected as the “signature piece” for the Shared Vision 2009-2010 Annual Art Exhibition. For details of this California exhibit and a photo of “Blind Spots,” visit John’s Web site, listed below.
In the artist’s words:
It was my lifelong dream to become a successful artist with a specialty in wildlife illustration. Having lost 95 percent of my vision due to retinitis pigmentosa, I have long since set aside my paint brush to pursue another career endeavor. Today, I am shifting my career direction back to my earlier wildlife creations by offering my original, highly detailed images as Giclée art prints within my new business venture, JD Lewis Wildlife Prints. To learn more about my prints, please visit my Web site.
Oil On Canvas
12" x 16"
A native of Colorado, Jeremy Lubbert was born with a visual impairment: cone dystrophy, which is a macular disorder that affects his central vision and his color vision. "Art is a relatively new interest in my life," he says, "although it was not absent in my upbringing."
The artist attended Creighton University, in Omaha, Nebraska, where he earned a degree in Political Science. Upon graduation, he tells us, "I found myself changing direction, taking the time to draw, teaching myself to paint, and buying tools to manipulate wood." Today, his primary interests are portrait drawing, painting – the style of his art ranges from realism to abstract – and creating wood sculpture and furniture.
In His Own Words:
You see what you can, and make up the rest.
|Far Away Eyes
Acrylic, 44" x 55"
Painter, Olympic runner, published author, and motivational speaker, George Mendoza, was diagnosed with Fundus Flavimaculatus, a rare hereditary eye disease, at fifteen yeas of age. In the course of eight months, he lost his central vision, and was left with limited peripheral vision.
He began painting full time in 1993, and recently completed his one hundred and fifteenth painting. The International Museum of Art in El Paso, Texas premiered 38 acrylic works by George Mendoza in August, 2005.
In His Own Words:
In 1993 I left the university and started writing and painting full time. Years before I had talked to a Priest at the Holy Cross Retreat, here in Mesilla. I was complaining about my vision. I was plagued by flashes of light, pinwheels of green and yellow, blood red pools, and patterns of blue dots swimming in my eyes. It was driving me crazy. “Paint them,” he said. Make designs out of your vision.” But I was busy running then. His words and his encouragement came back to me years later. I began to paint almost every day.
Leon was born in 1959 in Manhattan. His father was a jazz musician and his mother worked in a hat makers shop. Family memories, music, and fashion have influenced the imagery in his paintings. Leon’s grandparents were from South Carolina and his paintings also depict boyhood memories of his visits down south and have a folk art influence. He has been drawing since he was a young child. His mother and father influenced his art making by taking him to visit museums and jazz clubs when he was young. Leon currently attends the Pure Vision Arts Studio for artists with developmental disabilities in NYC. His paintings are included in many private collections. His recent exhibitions include the Museum of American Folk Art Benefit Exhibition and Art Auction, Pure Visions in the City, the 13th Annual Outsider Art Fair in New York City, Museum of American Folk Art Benefit Exhibition and Art Auction, Visual Dialogues in the School of Visual Arts Gallery,the 12th Annual Outsider Art Fair in New York City, and Pure Vision Arts – Annual Exhibition- New York City.
As a blind artist, Ketra Oberlander explores the tension between what's practical and what's possible. "I don't have any business deciding what I can't do," she observes, "people cheat themselves out of all sorts of opportunities because they think they can't do something. Well, what if they can?"
What if? Working in oils and acrylics, Ketra investigates spiritual potential and infinite variety in her exuberant floral portraits, color washes and aquasacapes. Despite her limited visual acuity and color perception, she captures the spirit of creation in her work.
In her own words: I've always been extremely myopic (-17 diopters) but also lack depth perception. In my late 30s a genetic predisposition for rod monochromatism (cone dystrophy) developed and my cones now function at 0. My rods function at 30% so I have more ability to see tone than color, movement than stillness, and see best in dim light conditions.
Michael Richard, a photographer, has acute congenital amblyopia in his left eye and lost vision in his right eye as a result of the resection and radiation of a large tumor (choroidal melanoma). Richard was born and raised in NYC before moving to Los Angeles to continue a career in music. He began to photograph in the mid 1980's as a secondary, though meaningful, artistic endeavor.
But he thought it impractical, though not impossible, to continue after losing most of his sight quite suddenly in 2002. A class at the Braille Institute in Los Angeles, taught by former LIFE magazine photojournalist Jack Birns (now losing his sight) was the catalyst and influence that gave him the confidence to photograph again. By the end of 2005, Richard will have participated in at least 18 exhibits including "Blind at the Museum" at the Berkeley Art Museum. He won a First Place in Photography award at the Philadelphia Museum of Art in "Art Beyond Sight", an exhibition sponsored by National Exhibits by Blind Artists.
In his own words:
I have also become active in the arts and disabilities community as both a photographer and musician and have found this to be one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.
Oil on Canvas, 30" x 40"
Albert D. Schmiege is a Wisconsin artist who has been legally blind since 1992, due to macular degeneration. Despite having no central vision, poor depth perception, and color blindness, Schmiege has been able to capture on canvas his interpretation of the world. He uses a combination of techniques, brush strokes, and color to create the illusion of detail and depth, usually working in oils.
In His Own Words:
I believe that blindness does not limit, but rather enhances the creative process. For me, my art evokes emotion. People connect with it in a much deeper way than just sight.
Contact: (608) 847-5161
|My Favorite View
Colored Pencil on Paper,
16" x 22"
Born and raised in South Carolina , Patricia Smith has been visually impaired since birth. She has toxoplasmosis, a detached retina in her right eye, and glaucoma in the left.
Art has always been extremely important in her life. She began drawing at a very young age, always encouraged by her family, and took art classes throughout her school years. She earned an undergraduate degree in Psychology and Art, and a M.A. in Art Education. Smith has taught in many different settings, displayed and sold her art, and recently began a home-based art business called "An Eye on Art."
Now in her 40s, Smith lives in Wyoming with her husband and two teenage daughters. In addition to her interests in art, she rides horses, reads, and tries to regularly visit the South Carolina beaches where she grew up.
In Her Own Words:
I thoroughly enjoy making and viewing art, and surrounding myself with those of like-mindedness. Being able to create paintings, drawings, and other works helps me to express how I feel about life. I am thankful that I am able to make beautiful things, and I want to share them with others.
|Unity and Peace
Acrylic on canvas
16" x 20"
Sacheen Smith is a Navajo artist from Albuquerque, New Mexico; her clans are Tsenjikini (Cliff Dwelling People), and is born to the Ashiihi (Salt People Clan).
Ms. Smith was diagnosed with a serious eye disease circa 2000 and lost her eyesight four years later. A lifelong artist until that point, she temporarily lost her desire to paint and draw. She eventually reconnected with her artistic abilities through writing poetry and the encouragement of a mentor, Sam English, an Ojibiwe artist, whom she met at a workshop titled “Healing through the Arts.” With his encouragement, Ms. Smith began drawing in pastels, and fell in love with drawing and painting once again.
Today, she combines her passion for Native American issues and wilderness protection with her artistic abilities. Recently, she was a featured artist with Native American Rights Fund’s “Modern Day Warriors Exhibit” in Colorado.
In 2006, the artist was diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Since then, she has undergone multiple radiation and chemotherapy treatments. She continues to endure severe head and eye pain. However, she feels very passionately that an artist must preserve and continue to create new work, and she hopes that her artwork inspires other people with disabilities to pursue their dreams.
In her own words:
I became more involved with my painting when I was influenced by another artist. With this influence I was able to experiment and find alternative ways to create my art. I would like, in return, to influence others with a disability to express their creativity through art. One of my goals is to work in my community and teach people, young and old, to paint. Eventually, I would like to travel and visit blind schools and IL facilities and teach my techniques. Currently, I am a motivational speaker for Tribal Youth American Indians and Alaskan Natives with disabilities.
Clay, 11" x 12"
Marcia Springston, who lives and works in southern West Virginia, has always been blind. As a child, she "loved the feel of soft clay in my hands," and enjoyed sculpting horses. As an adult, she became intrigued with the potters' wheel and the discipline of pottery production. She then knew ceramics was going to be her life's work. She quit her state job and went back to graduate school to study ceramics and sculpture.
Springston has been a studio potter for more than 20 years, and enjoys making functional stoneware forms more sculptural. As most of her customers are sighted, she feels it is necessary to make her work visually appealing. Another challenge for her is dealing with colors and the glazing she incorporates in her work.In Her Own Words:
I like for people to pick up my pieces and see them with their fingers as I do. I feel successful when people laugh or exclaim as they touch a piece that I have altered or textured.
|God's Half-Witted Brother
72" x 48"
Acrylic & Mixed Media on Canvas
Barbara Romain is a painter who earned an MFA degree from Otis College of Art in Los Angeles and a BFA from the University of the Arts in Philadelphia. She was diagnosed with retinal degenerative disease in 1984. Her paintings have been exhibited nationally. In 2004, she exhibited at Union Station and the Washburn Gallery in Washington, D.C., the San Francisco Art Commission’s City Hall Gallery, and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. Her work was recently part of a group show, “Art Beyond Sight,” curated by National Exhibits by Blind Artists, at the Philadelphia Free Library at Logan Square.
Romain has created public installations in Los Angeles, including “Echo Love,” a bus shelter in her Echo Park neighborhood, “Las Angelinas,” an exterior mural at the Women’s Building, and “Whose Myth Are Youse With?” an installation and performance at the Watts Towers Art Center Gallery in collaboration with her brother Elliott. She has been a three-year recipient of the California Arts Council’s Artist in Residence Award for Art Options—a program she co-founded in 1992 for inner city Los Angeles teenagers. She recently received an Artist-in-Residence award from the City of Los Angeles Cultural Affairs Department for 2005-2006. She currently studies piano at the Braille Institute and teaches color theory and art history at Columbia College Hollywood, a film school in Los Angeles.
In Her Own Words:
When I was diagnosed with a retinal degenerative disease in 1984, I had been painting in oils in a realistic, figurative style for more than 15 years. As I became legally blind, I slowly transformed my techniques to incorporate my physical limitations as an integral part of my work. My color palette has grown more vivid as my sight diminishes. I create stencils, which form icons and symbols as imagery. I am increasingly inspired by aural influences, music and language. I'm replacing keen visual observation of the world with an increasingly interior vision based in memory and imagination.
When Robert Steinem, a visually impaired, self-taught artist visited museums as a child, he always left thinking, “I could do that.” Such feelings led him to begin drawing and painting. He stopped, however, at the age of 19. “In 1960, while I was in the service, I lost clear vision. I cannot focus centrally, so I have peripheral vision only. By the time I got out of the service, my eyes were so bad that I quit drawing. I didn't even want to think about it."
After his stint in the Armed Forces, he worked first in the music business, then as a writer and poet. In his free time, he and his wife often visited museums, and—although he’d abandoned his own art—when they’d leave a museum he’d always murmur, “I could do that.” His wife finally challenged him to prove it by buying an easel, paints and canvas and giving them to him for his birthday. He stashed them in a corner of his home office, where they remained until then one cold winter day in the mid-1990s, when he “picked up a brush and rediscovered the joy of painting.”
Since 1998, Mr. Steinem has had a number of one-man shows in Vermont, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington, DC. Two of his paintings are being issued as prints by National Cathedral, and one of his snow landscapes was selected by the Christopher Reeve Foundation for its 2005 calendar. The artist still continues to write, but it is now his hobby, and painting, his vocation. Mr. Steinem does a lot of what he calls “reflection pieces”--buildings reflected in the windows of other buildings, plants and leaves reflected in water. “I’ve been playing with abstract and figured I could find it in nature, and I did in water, in water reflections.”
In his own words:
I have learned to work with the limitations that I have, rather than not do what I want to do.” He has built his own easel—one he can stand on so he can get close enough to the canvas to see it and his brush—and developed a method of working. Although I cannot see details in life, I have a self-focusing camera that I use to shoot scenes I want to paint. I then enlarge these photos, and study the wonderful details they reveal. A friend who’s a doctor made glasses for me, and I use a magnifying glass on top of that.
Peering Through Darkness
Photographer Kurt Weston is an AIDS patient diagnosed with CMV retinitis in 1994. The award-winning California resident is committed to his art and activism. Kurt Weston thought things could not possibly get any darker. At 30, he was diagnosed with full-blown AIDS, and his devastated immune system quickly succumbed to severe AIDS related (PC)pneumonia and Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS). On
top of that, he started to lose his eyesight. He could
no longer continue his work as a sought-after
beauty industry photographer – a career he truly
Although he learned to negotiate his visual loss fairly well, Kurt never dreamed he would ever be able to peer through a camera lens again. But he nervously accepted an invitation in 1998 to do the photography for an art calendar to raise money for a non-profit organization called Asian Pacific Crossroads. Using magnifying devices and special glasses, he achieved some breathtaking shots.
In his own words:
My view of the world is similar to looking at an impressionist painting. It is blurry, speckly, out of focus. Nothing is clear,” he explained. But with characteristic determination, he attended the Braille Institute in California and the Foundation for the Blind, learning how to use visual assistance devices.
Even though I don’t see the subject in focus at all, a combination of the visual aid devices and my years of experience allow me to take a good picture. I can just tell when the image is in focus.
Sunset at Riverside Park
Patricia Youngquist's work was first exhibited at Palssons in the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Her one-woman show included twenty images of black and white photography. In a review, The Columbia Daily Spectator wrote, "Youngquist's photographs possess enigmatic, off-centered sensibility that may be disconcerting or disorienting. Their success lies in the fact that she has somehow keenly experienced these pictures before making them into images, proceeding from spirit, idea, and feeling to flesh."
Youngquist's color work, printed digitally, derives from her pinhole cameras. It was exhibited at Nexus Gallery in the New York Gallery Building in June/July, 2002. One of many reviews stated that the viewer feels like she is looking through a kaleidoscope of beautiful colors. Another noted that the images were "inspiring."
In her own words:
For me (Sunset at Riverside Park) what it represents later is almost like a kaleidoscope, when you can look at it a lot of different ways. You see a sunset one way and I see a sunset another way. It's still a sunset.
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