Naked Eyes Observe the Ideal - D. Mealor 2011 - SOLD - Acrylic & mixed media on canvas - 920x920mm

“Naked Eyes Observe The Ideal” – acrylics & mixed media on canvas. Copyright Dennis Mealor 2011.

It is still there. I thought people were over it. Disability abuse. It is not only meted out to people with obvious, extreme disability, but also for many people like myself. With a disability not so obvious. This is not a plea for violins to play, I am over it. I embraced my vision impairment long ago. I regard it as factual now. I state it like it is. If people ask me, I will answer them as calmly as I can, that I am “vision impaired – I regard myself as a “Visually Impaired Artist.” That title is not of my own choice. But Society expects it of me: if I am to be visually impaired, and yet doing art, then I must have a label that excuses my artistic, visual actions. I hide behind that label at times, because there are many visually impaired artists in the world. And there is safety in numbers. It makes me feel safe. Also, hopefully it lessens the chances of judgement by others. Overall, it seems to have worked, at least  on the exterior.  I can never know what people are thinking.

However, ‘the Judgement’ raised its ugly head again on the weekend. I was in an art shop in Tewantin (Queensland, Australia), a place that sells quite uppity art work. I asked the lady behind the counter if she was open to view some of my art works, for possible sale at the shop. Owner was away, so she gave me their card, to contact them. Then she said, “Is your art a hobby, or serious?”

I thought – Why worry? As long as it might be good art – but I replied,

“Well, serious. I am on a disability pension, so I guess you could say I am a full-time artist.”

There was a pause as I continued browsing the works in the shop.

Then she said, “You look fit enough to me.”

For a moment I thought she was flattering my fitness (being 63!) but no, she was challenging my right to be on a pension.

“No, it’s my eyes. I am vision impaired,” I replied, gesturing with two fingers at both my eyes.

“Well, you don’t seem to have Coke-bottle spectacles either,” she said.

I finished with, “No, it’s my optic nerves that are damaged. Glasses have nothing to do with it.”

???????????????????????????????Funny, but I actually didn’t realise that she was having a go at me until I had left the store. Then it sunk home what she was saying. She was being vindictive in a passive-aggressive way. Subtle.  I am in that half-way world where my disability is not obvious – until I fall over a chair or down a kerb. My ophthalmologist told me that basically, I have 10% vision remaining in each eye, a sort of “tunnel vision.” My right eye has NO central vision however, only veiled peripheries. Fortunately, my left eye has a small ‘keyhole’ of central vision, again surrounded by veiled peripheries. That keyhole is my window to my entire visual world, helped somewhat by the veiled peripheries.

After this incident, I now feel the need to get this out to everyone. I am ok. I am happy with the vision I have. I am not after pity. At all. But I hate copping abuse over it – for not being disabled enough to suit some (misinformed) people’s idea of what disability is.

???????????????????????????????Here are my ophthalmologist “Field Tests” – Left and Right eyes. Plus a normal eye’s field test chart as a reference. As is obvious, not much light info is getting along my optic nerves to the brain. These patchwork quilts represent what I see. The white bits are vision. The black or grey bits, are lack of sight – or vision too faint that the field test can’t measure it.

All I ask is, of everyone:  please don’t assume that everyone else is totally able-bodied. Please don’t get impatient if some people are slow, and get in your way. Or they take a long time at the supermarket check-out. They MAY have a disability. Not all disabilities are obvious.

???????????????????????????????On the same issue, I did this painting “Naked Eyes Observe the Ideal,” for my “Fragments of Vision” exhibition in 2011, at Bundaberg Regional Art Gallery (BRAG). The painting’s theme was exactly what I have been ranting on about here: That some people can observe supposedly disabled others with a cynical eye. If they can’t ‘see’ a disability, then it does not exist. They believe the person is faking.

In this painting,  the ‘eyes’ are making judgement, to see if the person qualifies as being ‘disabled.’ In this case, the subject – the man with the prosthetic devices – is ‘The Ideal.’ That is, he qualifies as being disabled enough. So the eyes can let him go, without disdain.


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