An artist statement from Bruce Horak on his series THE WAY I SEE IT, on display in our lobby throughout the run of MOTHER TERESA IS DEAD. Bruce also provided the paintings in the show.
I am often asked how it is that I see, and this series of portraits is an attempt to answer that question.
As a result of a childhood cancer (bi-lateral retinoblastoma) I am Legally Blind. Technically, this means that I have less than %10 of "normal" vision; Imagine looking at the world through one eye, through a drinking-straw, through a glass of dust-filled water which is stirred up whenever your gaze shifts.
My right eye was removed when I was a year old and the retina of my remaining eye is covered in scar-tissue which accounts for my tunnel-vision. I had cataract surgery to remove the lens in my left eye. In addition to this, I have extreme light sensitivity and diminished acuity, an astigmatism, and a vast array of floaters in my visual field. I will never (legally) drive a car, but I can juggle, read large-print, have ridden a bicycle and a unicycle, bowled a strike, beaten my father at pool, and have made a career as a stage actor. I have heard the phrase, "you'd never guess" so many times that I have considered putting it on my business card.
The colors used in these portraits are inspired by the halo or aura that I see around people and objects, which is perhaps a result of my extreme light-sensitivity or astigmatism. I use the color of the aura as a base-tone for the painting and then work from the darkest point to the lightest. My tunnel-vision forces me to work in very small sections, and it will often be well into the work before I sit far enough back to see the entire canvass at once.
I prefer to work from a live model as the colors are much more vivid and dynamic and I have noticed that they will change depending on background, mood, location and will often shift during a sitting which is a wonderful challenge to try and capture.
Each portrait is meant to be viewed through high-prescription lenses at close range and with one eye closed in order to force the viewer to experience a form of tunnel-vision. As the viewer moves slowly away from the portrait, the image will distort like an old photograph, and there will be a 3-D effect, or so I am told, though I don’t personally see in 3-dimensions.
This project began as an homage to my father who not only stepped in to save what eyesight I have left, but also taught me to draw and paint. He encouraged me to celebrate and enjoy what I have rather than to mourn what I had lost. This project was sparked by his very positive outlook. It has afforded me the opportunity to spend time with some truly remarkable people, and for that I am grateful.
The on-going project can be seen at www.brucehorak.com