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Arts and Health Education and Research

Erica TandoriErica Tandori

Erica is a visually impaired artist, based in Melbourne, Australia. In 1989, while commencing visual art studies at university, Erica was diagnosed with Fundus Flavimaculatus, a genetic form of juvenile macular dystrophy.

Soon after this diagnosis, her visual acuity rapidly declined to the point of legal blindness, which also impacted her ability to drive, read, and recognize faces. Despite deteriorating vision, Erica returned to art studies in 2006, and is now completing a PhD in Visual Art and Ophthalmology, at the University of Melbourne, and the Victorian College of the Arts.

Erica uses visual art as a vehicle to express the loss of vision itself, utilizing painting, printmaking, drawing, photography and animation, to describe the effects of macular disease upon the visual field.

Her PhD research explores the link between environmental, psychological, and physical factors, and visual perception, resulting in an ever changing and dynamic relationship between the world, and the entoptic images resulting from the effects of retinal disease.

Erica's work reveals macular dystrophy to be far more pervasive, and intriguing, than the static images commonly found in both medical and popular media, contributing to new understandings of the nature of vision loss, and its impact, from a patients perspective.

A professional artist for many years, Erica has been commissioned by private individuals and organizations. Recent exhibitions include solo shows at the Melbourne Exhibition and Convention Centre, the Victorian Artists Society, and the Royal Victorian Eye and Ear Hospital.

Erica has appeared as a guest speaker at conferences, including the Southern Regional Convention of Optometry 2012, the International Low Vision Conference 2014, research symposiums, and various ophthalmic and medical conferences.

She holds a Bachelor Degree in Philosophy, two postgraduate qualifications in fine art, and a Masters Degree in Painting. Erica lives in Melbourne with her two daughters.

Exploring the experience of vision loss through visual art; an artist's eyewitness account

All types of Macular Degeneration have a devastating effect upon the visual field, often causing a pronounced and progressive loss of sight, to the point of legal blindness.

The inability to see faces, recognize loved ones, read, play sport, drive, or do the simplest activities of daily life can be challenging.

While Age Related Macular Degeneration (AMD), is increasing in our ageing population, the juvenile form of this disease also strikes children and young adults in the prime of their lives, significantly impacting future education, employment and mobility.

Despite continuing research, there is currently no cure for any type of macular degeneration. Clinical measures still prove difficult in determining exactly what the patient actually sees - consequently, our understanding of how such diseases appear from the patient's perspective, and the impact this has on their lives, remains largely unknown.

Images in medical texts, journals, eye health websites, media campaigns and the popular press, show how macular disease might look for those affected, often representing the disease as a big black spot at the centre of the visual field. Yet this type of vision loss is complex, and far more visually intriguing than a simple black spot would have us believe.

As a legally blind artist with Fundus Flavimaculatus, a juvenile form of Macular Degeneration, my presentation discusses a personal experience of vision loss, and how it is explored through the framework of a visual art practice. Utilizing painting, animation, photography, drawing and printmaking techniques, I aim to uncover the true impact of eye disease upon the visual field.

My presentation shows how valuable visual art can be, in contributing to medical understandings of macular degeneration, using rich, visual language to explore the loss of vision itself, and initiating further discourse between medicine, art, those with vision loss and the wider community.