Arts professor’s exhibit explores visual impairment

Hunter Casten
Contributing Writer

A VCU arts professor, drawing inspiration from a childhood illness that left him partially blind, created art with braille for the latest exhibit at the Visual Arts Center.

“Idiopathic Aura,” a new exhibit at the center by professor Thomas Condon, includes a combination of painting, photography and writing in braille.

Condon was hospitalized in his youth because of a surplus of spinal fluid called Idiopathic Pseudo-tumor Cerebri, which caused impaired vision. Condon said his later teen years were spent in and out of military hospitals.

“I spent hours alone in a small, dark room peering into a massive machine that mapped my visual fields,” Condon said.

Condon said he recalls images he perceived during different levels of blindness.

“As my sight failed and returned there were distinctively different perceptual experiences,” Condon said. “At times all I could see were blurred color and form, or just vague impressions of my environment, or nothing, only memories.”

The softly lit gallery mixes monochromatic photographs of Braille transcripts with a blend of light work metallic pigments oils with titles such as “Pseudomemory,” “Lateral Inhibition” and “Speaking in Tongues.” Other parts of the gallery include dual tone images such as “Hue and Cry” and “New Horizon,” and the final part of the gallery is a room of full color pieces revolving around the backlit diptych print, “Future Perception,” which is a work made up of matching parts.

“I wanted each room to promote a different visual and physical experience,” Condon said. “I hope that each room presents a different mode of communication than the others.”

Condon’s exhibit is featured in the Visual Arts Center from Jan. 24 to March 7, 2014.

Located at 1812 W. Main St., the VAC has been in operation for 50 years. It offers observation and adoration of fine art as well as both child and adult art classes. Thomas Condon has taught classes at the center since completing his MFA in photography and film at VCU.

Condon said as an educator in the arts and as an artist, it is important for him to be current with upcoming shows and galleries.

“I try to make it out to as many art openings and lectures as possible,” Condon said. “After some time, much like any other culture, the longer you are a part of it the smaller it seems.”

Condon’s exhibit is sponsored by the Altruism Association and presented by the ADA gallery, which represents his work.


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