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Second Sense - Beyond Vision Loss

The Power of Art

May 1, 2019 | 2 Comments

by Rosemary Fortney

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Born an Artist

Drawing and being an artist was always in my genetic makeup. It has developed through years of art exploration and fine arts studies at Mt. Mary University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Cardinal Stritch College in Fox Point.

Art to me is the warmest, most fulfilling experience of my life.  Sharing something beautiful and meaningful with others speaks to the power of the artful soul.  As does knowing that a particular piece of me and my art will be reflected upon and re-active another person’s emotions and thoughts each time we “experience and encounter” each other.


Art Takes a Back Seat

It is so-o easy to allow one’s spirit and desires to be “snuffed out” by unexpected and overwhelming life circumstances and challenges.  My daughter’s brain cancer at age five, my vision loss diagnosis due to RP (retinitis pigmentosa), and then the triple-whammy — our daughter also inherited my RP.

I suddenly became a mom/”pediatric oncology nurse” with vision loss.  I had to face head-on the necessity of creatively adapting myself.  This included learning cane mobility and then guide dog teamwork at Seeing Eye. I also learned adaptive technology in order to follow-up and meet with the Neuro, Endocrine and Radiology Specialists who suddenly became our life-support.

As our daughter survived two brain surgeries and we adapted to lifelong meds and injections, we continued to develop our unique bond of living life with vision loss and our adaptations.  This wasn’t our chosen path, and my artistic passion still “flickered” while I taught technology/elementary education part-time.
Rosemary standing with her Seeing Eye dog, Clyde next to her artwork, Underwater Cave.


A Chance Encounter Brings Art Back

In exploring further vision support for our daughter’s education, we encountered Second Sense at a Chicago convention.  Our daughter benefited greatly AND we because aware of the Passionate Focus Art Exhibit.  This discovery went above and beyond safe navigation and important adaptations for living with vision loss in the physical world.  The Passionate Focus exhibit experience acknowledges and understand the valuable, creative soul of expression living inside individuals with vision loss.  I dared to present myself to the jury process as an equal in the art world.  And to re-ignite and challenge myself as a Fine Artist.

Being an artist with blindness requires organization and clear memory of where mediums, substrates and tools are kept.  They must be within reach for my creative process to flow easily toward great results.

Adaptive speech and zoom technology also guide me in manifesting my artistic inner vision, despite how much visual field remains for me.


Vision Loss Changes My Artistic Vision

Before vision loss, my artworks were portraits and exactitude in drawing.  Now, I courageously adapt and choose various mediums new to me which take my art beyond that which I’ve known. I truly enjoy engaging with the free motion and expressive “dance” of fluid inks and pigments, resulting in intense colors, beautiful unique blending and suggestive forms.

As RP progresses from my current 5 degrees central vision, I feel myself desiring to explore the richness of textured mediums.  I hope to design an optimistic 2020 theme honoring Milwaukee and the great political gathering/convention.  I also have two provocative new pieces completed reflecting my artistic impressions of climate change.

There are many places I have dared myself to exhibit and/or win awards.  The Milwaukee Art Museum, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, The Gast Haus, Mt. Mary University Art Gallery, Mt. Baker Center for the Arts and the Presidential Library in Yorba Linda, CA are just a few.  My art also resides in public and private collections.

Passionate Focus inspires me to manifest my artistic potential, and for this I am super grateful.

You can see Rose’s latest work, as well as work from past exhibits, on our Passionate Focus website.  Passionate Focus 2019 will be on May 16 at the Fairmont Hotel in Chicago.  Tickets are available for you to see Rose’s work and the work of 22 other artists with vision loss.

Rosemary is an artist living in Milwaukee.  Her work has been included in many Passionate Focus exhibits, starting in 2004 and including 2019.

2 comments on “The Power of Art”

  1. I hear many similarities in our stories. I hope I get to meet Rosemary at Passionate Focus this year.

  2. This was a nice find today as I was looking over the website.
    I am pleased to say I will have work in the 2020 Passionat Focus #2 exhibition this year, too.
    I’ve shared this lovely article on your work, on my FaceBook Page aat “River Road Studio, in Ellwood City, PA.
    Keep on making the world a more beautiful place, Rose.

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