Visuality: Painting and Presence

My first solo authored essay was about blind photography, or photographs taken by people who are blind. Recently, an alumni of the school where I got my Masters degree (and where I coincidentally started that project on blind photography) was featured for his painting–as a person who is blind. For me, this was a chance to revisit some of the themes from the essay.

John Bramblitt, also a University of North Texas alum, shares that he paints and navigates using a sense of touch, and that “Art isn’t about vision, it’s about expressing.”

Besides the fact that I’m anxiously awaiting the Dallas skyline painting to be offered as a print, I’ve seen Bramblitt’s work before I knew he was blind, and really enjoyed it.

As I note in the Quarterly Journal of Speech essay (LINK/PDF: Kaszynski Look A Picture QJS), there are ocular dimensions to the world – what you can see with your eyes – but then there are connective dimensions to the world – how you piece together histories and imagine relationships. I use vision as a term for the former, and draw on visuality for the latter, with visibility as a middle term referencing what is capable of being seen in either of the other two meanings.

In that essay I also propose thinking about a tactile visuality that prioritizes immediacy, groundedness, and presence that is engaged and embodied. I quote Martin Jay who notes in Downcast Eyes that “touch restores proximity of self and other, who then is understood as neighbor” (557).

In addition to enjoying Bramblitt’s art, his work offers an opportunity to think again about the ways we see, think, and imagine. The world is a jumble of information, and ocular vision doesn’t provide enough tools to appropriately process it. That’s what I term “Anemic Visuality.” For a “Robust Visuality” we must attend other senses in our practices of visualization, like the tactile and the audial.

As we engage with the world today, let’s consider not only the bright and flashy items of the hour, but also focus and expand: Not an expansion that asks us to sink into social media feeds and into paralyzing knowingness, but a presentness that works to draw meaningful connections and imagine purposeful futures. And in those practices of visualization–imagination and drawing connections– let’s develop more actions than reactions, finding ways to both know and do.

Endnote: As I reread parts of the QJS essay, parts were still great, parts had pretty clear typos (like the term audial where its pretty clearly supposed to be tactile), and a whole lot of it I want to go back and revise for clarity and fluidity. Over time, some of that may happen via this blog or in future publications, but as a note to self: let it go. Sometimes it’s paralyzing to try to write knowing that I’m going to make mistakes no matter what. Part of writing is not letting that stop me, and growing as a teacher, scholar, and writer.

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