ARTIS­TIC TRI­UMPH

LIBBY SMITH IS A VIS­UALLY-IM­PAIRED ARTIST BUT THAT DOES NOT STOP HER FROM DO­ING WHAT SHE LOVES

The Gulf Today - Panorama - - WEEK’S PICK -

At Libby Smith’s “Mag­i­cal Be­ings” at down­town Or­lando’s Cit­yarts Fac­tory, there is a 12-foot trip­tych. The three paint­ings to­gether com­prise a 12-foot land­scape of life­less tree trunks af­ter a hur­ri­cane. “I saw these gor­geous dead trees,” said the artist. “And the art teacher I was with looked at me and said, ‘What are you do­ing? They’re dead.’”

When Smith com­pleted the paint­ing three years later in 2006, the art teacher re­turned. “He said, ‘I don’t see how you saw that.’”

But that’s the trick. Smith painted the piece one inch at a time. To her, it was a se­ries of “beau­ti­ful lights and darks … And there were no leaves to mess it up for me.”

She has never seen the full piece.

The Or­lando res­i­dent has lost 90 per cent of her vi­sion due to a rare con­di­tion called pars plani­tis. The au­toim­mune dis­ease causes in­flam­ma­tion in the back of the eye. “They say it’s like a cig­a­rette smoul­der­ing be­hind the eye filled with lit­tle par­ti­cles scratch­ing the back of your eye up,” said Smith.

Smith is legally blind. Her eye­sight is de­scribed as fin­gers at feet. On an eye chart, “I can’t see the big E,” she said.

Born in 1964, Smith says art was al­ways the pro­fes­sion she was drawn to. The nuns at her pri­vate school in Palatka be­gan sub­mit­ting her art to con­tests. She says she won her first awards in fifth grade.

That was also the year

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