Shortly after landing in New York City from Greece, Fotis Flevotomos walked into Mid-Manhattan Library on June 11, 2011. As Brigid Cahalan, The New York Public Library's Outreach Coordinator, was showing him the space in the Corner Room where his art would adorn the shelves from June 11 through June 23, I was staffing the Popular Library Desk and thought that he must have been jet-lagged — if he was, that didn't stop him from installing all of his pieces that day. Flevotomos's art was on display as part of the Low Vision and Blindness Resource Day. The New York Public Library, in collaboration with Lighthouse International, the Xavier Society for the Blind, and VISIONS Services for the Blind and Visually Impaired, held the all-day event on Saturday, June 18 at Mid-Manhattan Library. Flevotomos's website contains links to selected images, as well as information on his latest artistic and theroetical works.
Fotis FlevotomosDuring the week leading up to the all-day event, Mr. Flevotomos made a few trips to the Library, repositioning the pieces, making sure they were properly captioned, etc. I was lucky enough to be working that Saturday, and was in the room for the half-hour question and answer session. Along with Fotis Flevotomos, two other local artists, Sandra Padernacht and Dana Simon, also displayed their works and answered questions from the audience. Lighthouse staff member Jessica Hughson-Andrade moderated. All of the artists' pieces in the room were inspiring and amazing to me. Each artist was asked about his/her particular form of low vision. Mr. Flevotomos explained that his form of low vision made him improperly able to distinguish contours. This prompted me to ask whether he fully sees his finished pieces. His response was, that if he holds finished pieces close enough, he has no trouble seeing them.
A few days after the event, Flevotomos returned to Mid-Manhattan Library to pack up his artwork; he was scheduled on a flight back to Greece the same day. One of his larger pieces, a watercolor, was in the Fifth Avenue window. Before he dismounted it, I took the opportunity to capture it on my camera phone. Mr. Flevotomos was not permitted to sell his artwork while in the United States because of Customs Regulations, but he could sell them upon his return to Greece. I emailed Mr. Flevotomos to say that I enjoyed the half hour Q&A and that I was also happy to have taken a couple photos of the watercolor in the Fifth Avenue window as keepsakes.
Mr. Flevotomos sent me the link to his website, where I could view selected watercolors and paintings. His website also included his theoretical and artistic works. I was especially moved by his autobiographical essay, The Mystery of Images, and how he grappled in his early youth with the consequences of being diagnosed with a form of low vision and being a painter. Mr. Flevotomos tells me that he will return to New York, and I hope The New York Public Library will display his artwork again.
The story doesn't end there, however. Because I showed an interest in his artwork, Mr. Flevotomos created a digital card for me. Enjoy!
For selected online resources on low vision, see What is Low Vision, and If You Are Blind or Have Low Vision, How We Can Help. Selected books include Art Beyond Sight: A Resource Guide to Art, Creativity, and Visual Impairment, and The Art of Seeing, A Novel. The New York Public Library's Visual Disabilities and Blindness page also provides links to freely available web resources.