I was asked to write a short article for a journal recently. The editor asked me to discuss how my art changed from the time I could see to do it, and how it is done now that I cannot see to do it. I am delighted to answer this question because it means that someone has an interest in what I do and how I do it, as an artist. It also means that someone is not afraid to have an honest discussion with me about a topic that far too many people are afraid to face or discuss – sight loss.
Here is what I wrote and sent off today to the editor of the journal:
One of the most valuable lessons I learned as a mature student of the fine arts at Slippery Rock University of PA, back in the 1980s was that there was a difference between “seeing” and “looking.” My painting professor had talked with me about learning to “see.” He sent me off on a new journey when he gave me a list of artists on day. My assignment was to visit the library and find those artists. He told me to look at pictures of their work. I spent many days in the library. I back the information to him about what I was “seeing.” This assignment opened up a new way of thinking for me, a new understanding of what art is really about.
Seeing takes a long period of time. It is not a glance, or a quick look. It is about the passage of time. It happens in layers. Seeing involves the entire body, not just the eyes. I soon became aware of the inner vision that sees the art work, and time stood still. We are outside of time when we begin to “see” the world around us through all of our senses.
This belief that I embraced enabled me to continue to create after I lost most of my eyesight nearly four years ago. I learned to adapt, to find new ways of expressing an idea. I decided that this change in vision opened new doors for me and new ways of exploring in my art work. I viewed it as a new opportunity to learn new ways of working.
Instead of painting pictures and making wood cut prints, I decided to begin working in clay. It was a very quick transition for me to move from a 2 dimensional flat surface, to a 3 dimensional form. My love of painting has been transformed to working on the surface of the forms I made, using glazes, under glazes and stains to get the rich colors and depth of surface that I always had in my paintings. Now, I think of my vessels as paintings. They are paintings that you can take a walk around, and view from all sides.
Making pottery is a new adventure for me. It is one that I experience because of a life-changing challenge. Most people would think that to lose your eyesight, for an artists, would be the worst imaginable tragedy. This is not true.
Instead of feeling sorry for something I had no control over, I turned my personal challenge into a new adventure. I changed my mind and looked for positive outcomes. Every day, I look for what is positive and I think of ways to adapt things so that I can do them in my own way. It is all about finding your inner vision. It is all there inside of you, waiting for you to discover it. My art work reflects my way of Walking by Inner Vision.
River Road Studio, Wurtemburg, PA since 1976