An introduction to the experiences of the visually impaired as well as the misconceptions about blind and low-vision artists.
Part art book, part sociological text, Howell’s debut boldly presents itself as “the voice of the blind and low-vision” in the artistic community, providing numerous firsthand sources to illuminate the accomplishments and hardships of visually impaired artists. Howell, a professional artist whose vision has been impaired since his teens, brings his own experiences to a series of interviews with 15 of his peers, from journeyman artists and appreciators to better-known figures such as Braldt Bralds and Bruce Hall. The result is an honest study of how the blind and low-vision both engage with their creativity and explore other artists’ work. Focusing less on medical or scientific aspects, the book instead analyzes how each subject perceives their world and art, with Howell theorizing the possibility of a self-created “inner vision” independent of actual sight. Along the way, a better understanding forms as to how the aid of other people, touch and, in some cases, limited vision contribute to each artist’s process, as well as the ways in which ableism has hindered them. The book’s interviews are easily its greatest asset, and each interviewee’s perceptions and experiences are coupled with numerous samples of their work (including Howell’s own), giving impressive visual reference to many of the concepts that might otherwise be difficult for readers to comprehend without experiencing them firsthand. The introductions to the individual interviews are inconsistent, however, with some participants receiving in-depth bios, while others only provide background information in the interview itself. Also, Howell too often takes the attention away from his subjects, at times asking leading questions and using their answers as a chance to interject his own opinions. Despite this, the book remains a remarkable and shockingly honest resource, not only for readers interested in these misrepresented, sometimes tokenized members of the artistic community, but for anyone looking for an intimate examination of an artist’s creative process.
Brings much-needed focus and unprecedented access to an oft-ignored community.