Gallery Night showcased artwork of the blind and visually impaired
With help from the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art (MMoCA), the Council celebrated the work of blind and visually impaired artists at Gallery Night on October 2.
The WCBVI office was transformed into a mini art gallery for the night as attendees admired work from five artists and was entertained by the folk music of acoustic guitarist Ken Lonnquist. Gallery Night featured the work of watercolorist Eunice Reep, the pottery of Judith Rasmussen, photographer Mike Morris and quilter Susan Elizabeth Gasal.
Gasal, who lives in Random Lake, had a very large quilt displayed at Gallery Night. Gasal learned to quilt in high school despite having vision problems from a retinal detachment. Gasal said her sewing teacher refused to teach her certain techniques, but that didn’t stop her from following her passion.
After stepping away from the sewing machine for several years, Gasal began sewing again in 2004. It took her a while to relearn the craft, but the hard work paid off. In September, the quilt Gasal featured at Gallery Night was displayed at the Madison Quilt Expo.
“Quilting does make me happy because I’m still able to do this with the limited vision that I have,” Gasal said. “My color palate has opened up because of friends encouraging me to do it.”
Morris, of Belleville, received outstanding praise for his photography at Gallery Night. For years, Morris enjoyed the beauty of the outdoors, but was often too busy to really notice the pristine scenery around him. At age 39, Morris was diagnosed with myopic macular degeneration. While the diagnosis was difficult, Morris decided it was time to capture the beauty of the outdoors while he still could.
Morris continues to grow as a photographer, focusing on the detail of each shot. Morris’ ability to focus on contrasting colors and the sharpness of scenes is remarkable.
“This was a new hobby that I had picked up. I use the phrase ‘fight or flight.’ It was either I’m going to fight this and continue to show that I can do whatever I want to do, or I can curl up into a circle somewhere and ball and let this win,” Morris said. “So I picked up the photography really in the last two years.”
When she isn’t busy at the potter’s wheel, Rasmussen, from Madison, works part-time at the Council and is also a licensed massage therapist. Rasmussen suffered a detached retina as a child and had to use a magnifying glass to paint flowers, leaves and other designs on slip-mold ceramics. When she became an adult, however, Rasmussen lost all her vision, and searched for a creative outlet to fill an artistic void.
“When I lost all my sight I felt like I needed something creative to do, so I called the studio here in (Madison) and said, ‘Hey, I’m blind, but I would really like to know if I would fit into one of your classes and how would the instructors feel about that,’” Rasmussen said. “They were very receptive so I started to work on wheel-thrown pottery, which is a wonderful feeling to know that you’re molding something with your hands.”
Many of Rasmussen’s items are functional, such as bowls, mugs, vases, teapots, and lidded casserole dishes, while others are free-form.
Reep, a watercolorist from Madison, showed several paintings during Gallery Night. Reep, who graduated from UW-Madison with a degree in art, studied ceramics, design, drawing and painting. Reep’s work won a “Best of Show” award in 2002 and the “President’s Award” in 2004 from the Wisconsin Regional Arts Program exhibition at the UW-Madison Pyle Center. Due to macular degeneration, Reep has experienced declining vision the past several years, but it doesn’t stop her from pursuing her passion.
Gallery Night also featured the work of 16-year-old Illana Dehoyos, whose love for drawing didn’t subside due to limited vision.
Council Executive Director Loretta Himmelsbach said all the artwork displayed at Gallery Night was “amazingly good.”
“It just shows incredible talent,” Himmelsbach said.