One thing that was always nurtured in me as a child was art. My father was an architect, and my mother is an art-lover. I remember they would collect all my artwork from preschool and elementary school. I used to have trouble sleeping as a kid, so I started drawing on the wall next to my bed; it would comfort me until I fell asleep. Most parents would probably scold a kid for drawing on the wall, but my parents loved it! In fact, my father would bring his architect friends into the room to “see my daughter’s mural.” Art has always been one area where I don’t feel inadequate. Art is so subjective, and anything can be art, so there is no judgment, and it’s very liberating. I’ve done abstract painting, mosaic tile work, ceramics and, currently, sculpture.
Becoming a Blind Artist
When I became blind, maybe five or six years in, I started going to Braille Institute, and I rediscovered art as a blind person. I saw people there creating art, and I thought, “This is amazing.”
I always wanted to learn how to sculpt, but every time I called art schools about classes, when I told them I’m blind, they told me I had to take private lessons. Fear came up, and they did not know where to put me. Finally, two years ago, I started taking private lessons. My first piece was a portrait of a man, and the school was so amazed, they not only offered to put me in the sculpting class, but they gave me a full scholarship.
My private-lesson teacher wasn’t even a sculptor; she was a painter, but she was so tickled by the idea of a blind person wanting to sculpt that she wanted to be involved. She was a true artist and wanted to try something new. It was a wonderful experience for both of us. My second teacher would blindfold herself to figure out how to teach me. She really went out of her way, and I learned some really great techniques. I started my current class, which is a figure-sculpting class, by sculpting shoes — I have a shoe fetish — but I starting getting jealous of everyone else sculpting figures. I can’t touch the naked models, so now I touch other people’s sculptures and use that as a study to make my own.
I love it. I love the feel of clay. I’m a very tactile person, and I love the sensation of it in my hands. It’s so malleable. I use my hands more than sighted people; I don’t really use tools. I need to feel the clay to shape it, and I think there’s more emotion involved for me. It’s me, the piece and nothing else. Maybe it’s because I can’t see it — it’s like a meditation for me. I get lost in my piece. There is so much emotion — that’s where I get my inspiration. It’s a way to fantasize or fulfill an emotion or need. For me, it’s more about the process — I don’t see the finished product. It’s a very fulfilling way of expressing myself that words can’t; it’s more about expressing what I feel.