Sunday, October 18, 2009
Insights 2009: 20 Years of Blind Art
The Lighthouse for the Blind and Visually Impaired on Van Ness Avenue started an annual art show in San Francisco's City Hall twenty years ago with thirteen tactile sculptures in an exhibition that has become steadily more ambitious and national in scope.
The fancy opening was on Thursday evening, complete with free wine and hors d'oeuvres for the artists, their friends, and the many donors to the organization.
There's a slightly mawkish element to the affair, such as when the bio card next to the art reads, "...with 15 years of work experience as a successful fashion photographer, in 1991 I was diagnosed with AIDS and in 1996 became legally blind due to a related condition, CMV retinitis...A year ago I was diagnosed with a rare form of abdominal cancer. I felt it would be beneficial to spend time surrounded by nature."
Like any group show, the quality varies considerably, but as in years past there are a few artists who stand out in ways that make you rethink the entire nature of vision and representation. Michael Levell from Claremont, California "has an innate ability to draw furniture and architecture in perfect perspective" and his three acrylic on paper drawings are wonderful.
Each exhibit has three "Featured Artists," with about 20 works a piece, and this year the triumph belongs to San Francisco's Quin Graddy (above) who works with photography, linocut prints and collage.
He first exhibited a piece at this "Insights" show at age nine in 1996. His bio states, "I have been visually impaired all of my life with achromatopcia, which means that I have no color vision, and I am Photophobic. My lack of sight physically correlates with the themes in my work of the "unseen" – and speaks to society's own lack of "seeing" from within itself. Working form the honest integrity of photography, to the intimacy of crafting a printing plate, to the merging of forms in collage, I can capture and alter boundaries of reality."
His photos of decaying cityscapes in the Bayshore neighborhood are extraordinary.
The exhibit will be in City Hall's basement next to the Department of Elections until December 11th, and most of the work is for sale at very reasonable prices. It's something of a revelation.