In the center of the black pupil, surrounded by a multi-colored yellow, orange and blue iris, a series of dots rises from the painting. In Braille, the dots in Dekendrick Graves’ “The Eyes in My Dream” artwork read “Love is blind.”
The painting is part of a 35-piece exhibit currently on display in the Alabama Center for the Arts’ walking gallery, offering viewers a glimpse at the world through the eyes of children living with visual impairments.
On display through Sept. 28, the Helen Keller Arts Show of Alabama features paintings, collages and creations by Alabama students who are blind, partially sighted or deaf-blind, which is a combination of audio and visual impairments.
Through pieces titled “Perfectly Imperfect,” “Do You See What I See,” “I Can See Clearly Now,” “Visions of Rainbows” and “My Colors are Bright,” some of the young artists use art to address their visual limitations.
In “I Can See Clearly Now,” Andre Garrett, a student at the Helen Keller School, attached sunglasses, some with eyes painted on the lenses, to a yellow canvas covered with swirls of paint and a short poem that reads, “Allow me one second of sight, one moment of color, one day to see as you see.”
“The exhibit clearly demonstrates that art is for everyone, even people with vision impairments and blindness. It is so inspiring to see the works done by students,” said Jennifer Bunnell, director of the Alabama Center for the Arts.
In “My Stamp on Life” by Helen Keller School student Denzel Robinson, the images of a face and hands appear next to the words, “I will always have to push harder, stand taller, think smarter, but nothing will stop me, for I am forever limitless.”
In “Love Signing,” Jazmine Chatman, also a student at the Helen Keller School, painted a hand signing “I Love You,” with the thumb, forefinger and pinkie extended.
For the visually impaired community, where touch is key, many of the paintings, like Chatman’s, incorporate different textures, from sand to beans to jewels to layered paints.
Cur’Niyah Sigler, a student at Kermit Johnson Elementary, re-created a beach scene with yellow pipe cleaner for the sun and parts of a pine cone for the bark of the palm tree.
Coordinated by Shirley Johnson-Wilson with the UAB Vision Science Research Center, the juried show is open to any student 21 and younger diagnosed as blind, visually impaired or partially sighted.
The artists range from kindergartners to high school seniors and represent the Helen Keller School, Kermit Johnson Elementary, Alabama School of the Blind, Edgewood Elementary, Burkett Center, Pleasant Grove High, Paine Elementary, Willis Valley Elementary, Fultondale Elementary, Clay-Chalkville High, Pinson Elementary and Erwin Middle.
Along with the students’ artistic abilities, the exhibit spotlights the artists’ aspirations.
On the placards next to the works of art, viewers learn that Eustacia McCallum, artist of “Gator in the Water,” dreams of becoming a teacher for students with visual impairments, that Saniya Sanders, artist of “The Light of the Dragon Fly,” collects dragon figurines and colorful knee socks, that Sarah Hope McBrayer, artist of “Yes Ma’am, I Hid My Glasses,” makes sure her friends walk in a straight line, and that Mya Harris, artist of “Monsters in Disguise,” wants to work with animals.
The Alabama Center for the Arts hopes to host the traveling exhibit next year also. Proceeds from the pieces, which are available for a donation of $100 or more, go to scholarships, summer workshops and more.
The center on Second Avenue in downtown Decatur is open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., Monday to Thursday, and 8 a.m. to noon on Friday. Admission is free.