Two summers ago I walked into a plate-glass window in midtown Manhattan. The glass was so clear and clean, I thought it was a door, and tried to barrel through. The impact was like hitting a black marble wall. I was knocked to my knees. Blood began to run into my right eye. I shouldn’t walk so fast.
After two weeks something weird began to happen. Manhattan provides a forest of vertical lines and each building, sign post, or stainless hand-pole on bus and subway appeared wavy, as if reflected in a pool of moving water. I saw my cornea surgeon who immediately called in a retina specialist. An optical scan clearly showed the inside of the retina required a vitrectomy, microscopic surgery where membrane is peeled from the inner surface of the back of the eye.
Oddly, to me, the condition appears to have had nothing to do with the collision with the window.
Making artwork became an obsession almost in an instant when, at age thirteen, I lay on the floor in a tall dark hotel room in Zurich, my nose pressed to a huge sheet of paper, a thick stub of charcoal blackening my fingers. Ten percent vision was enough to distinguish black on white, but that wasn’t the thrill. The action was getting immediate feedback from drawing on paper.
After six months of waiting, my left eye was ready for a corneal transplant.
Over the forty years that were to follow, I excelled at art school and have enjoyed a winding career. My eyes have needed multiple surgeries—five corneal transplants, cataract removal, and most recently, peeling of the retina. Life is vision up, vision down. I’m habituated to shape and color. The boundaries blur but then, life is porous.
It’s been said that luck plays a part but nothing is an accident. I was lucky. I lay on a carpet with a sheet of paper and my life opened on to that canvas. Some of that is here to see.
Below — Pattern Design using magnolias for a dinner plate. This, and the tens of thousands of images and designs I have made draw on my experiences with vision problems and moving past them into clarity, developing a visual language in which images appear new.