NO STRAIGHT LINES

 

I am a “visually impaired visual artist” and writer, and if there is one thing I have learned, it is that there are no straight lines in life.  As a survivor of three brain surgeries and fifteen months of chemotherapy since age ten, I learned this lesson quite early.  The resulting visual impairment (called hemi-anopsia, having half my field of vision in both eyes) caused me to read and study differently, with a greater sensitivity for the spoken word.  For most of my life, my two greatest pursuits—my writing and my drawing—were loved equally.  To me, they were inseparable.  So it was only natural that, after my surgeries, I used my drawing as therapy, to get my eyes and head to move about, to compensate for my missing vision.  And my artwork expressed itself as tableaux and comic strips; that is, as narrative art—art that tells a story.  Throughout my years at Arizona State University, I have continued to develop my writing with strong visual effects, while developing my visual art as if revealing a story.  Nowhere is this more evident than in my poetry, short stories, and short scripts, or in the first installment of my graphic series, Ember Black, the final project for my BFA Art (Drawing) degree, two years in the making.

 

I like to draw upon my minors in English Literature and Women’s and Gender Studies, infusing my artwork and my writing with the rich tradition of literature, legend, and folklore, even as I tell stories that reveal women’s struggles and the potential for their empowerment.  While creating the story board for my senior project, I became acutely aware how the blind and visually impaired have been excluded from visual art.  As a result, I wrote, directed, and produced an audio version of Ember Black, using the abundant resources, students, and opportunities of Arizona State University.  Although the experience was often frustrating, it was also immensely gratifying, and it extended the way in which I express my art to a broader audience.  As I continue my journey as an artist, illustrator, writer, and graphic novelist, I will continue to explore new ways for the visually impaired to experience visual art, because one thing is for certain:  Art should be inclusive, not exclusive.  I am a living testimony of that.

 

Throughout my life I have come to realize that no one succeeds by her own efforts alone.  For me, I had the loving support of my mother and teachers, and I learned patience and persistence in my recovery, my art, my writing, and my school work.  Although neither my mother nor I have had any shortage of well-meaning people telling us that a life as an artist and writer is not easy, I ask myself, “When have I ever had it ‘easy’?” Faced with my own mortality at an early age, I have learned to view life differently.  I take nothing for granted.  The simple truth is that no one knows what will happen in life or how much time we have, so we need to find out what we love, what we do well, and pursue both with passion and purpose.  I will keep writing and creating art because I must, because I love it, and because I have stories to tell.  I can no more decide to give up creating than I can to give up breathing.  Having found my niche in this world, it is my intention to improve by creating new works that uplift and entertain, open my art to underrepresented audiences, and teach other, aspiring artists to transcend their perceived limitations.  All in all, not bad work in a life devoted to art.  And, in a profession containing no easy, predictable paths to success, who better to accept this challenge than a woman who never expected any straight lines in life?

           

--Marieke Davis

September 2016