Visually impaired artist Stephen D. Anderson exhibits artwork at Limelight Theatre

Stephen D. Anderson
January 21, 2016

From The Starving Artist

The simple term “unique vision” may be quite complex depending upon its context. Within the subject of art, it may mean presenting images in a way not seen before. Regarding eyesight, “unique vision” takes on an entirely different meaning, especially for the visually-impaired – the reality of seeing, of witnessing an environment in a personal way nobody else does.

These two different realities come together to define the “unique vision” and talent of Steven D. Anderson as he renders St. Augustine’s architectural heritage in a way no other artistdoes – with unique perspective and vibrant, brilliant, unexpected color.

The Starving Artist, an iconic art gallery in the center of the city’s historical district on Cuna Street, teams up with Limelight Theatre to exhibit Anderson’s impressive creative work during this winter’s production of The Grapes of Wrath.

When the show opens Jan. 22, 2015, theater guests will be able to closely examine Anderson’s historical visions, on view in the Matuza Main Stage area in the Crisp-Ellert Art Gallery inside Limelight Theatre, 11 Old Mission Ave., uptown St. Augustine

Joyce Hayes, co-owner of The Starving Artist explains, “Anderson’s artistic visions of our historical city are totally unique. No other artist interprets Saint Augustine’s heritage in such a highly innovative manner. His composition, balance, and color choices delight the viewer in a most impressive way, especially when one considers he’s creating art with 95 percent vision loss.”

Hester Longstreet, The Starving Artist’s other co-owner, was recently elected as vice president of Art Galleries of Saint Augustine. Hester and Joyce select the art for Limelight Theatre among the gallery's 40 or so area artists.

ABOUT THE ARTIST

“Seven years ago I was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa and severe Glaucoma, both diseases progressively stealing my sight little by little, day by day. My independence and my self-confidence were devastated and I entered a depression as my sight and independence quickly eroded," Anderson said.

“Three years ago, I decided I had enough of my self-imposed 'pity party' and decided to re-invent my self and began documenting my beloved Saint Augustine monuments in my own, individual way – to create new remembrances of our historic buildings in a way nobody else has.”

“I have a tiny postage stamp sized portal through which I view the world, surrounded by a blurry darkness filled with obstacles of bright flashing lights and a fog that comes and goes relentlessly. I’m almost completely color blind. Subtle and light colors are all shades of gray to me. Darker colors are black. The only color I see must be bright and saturated. My field of vision is nearly closed, but I keep on creating art while I can, There are still many historical antiquities I haven’t yet examined,” Anderson explains.

Walking into Villa Zorayda Museum one day, with paintings of legendary Franklin W. Smith’s Casa Monica Hotel, and the villa itself, owners Jim and Marsha Byles were immediately awed by Anderson’s representations of Smith’s architectural legacies. The Byles family purchased his pieces at once. One year later, Anderson made art history by exhibiting at Villa Zorayda Museum during Saint Augustine’s 450th Commemoration as the very first artist to ever exhibit at the museum since its founding in 1933. His exhibit and sale was so successful, it was extended an extra month.

Since then, Anderson’s painting of Henry Flagler’s Memorial Presbyterian Church graced the magazine cover of the St. Augustine Entertainer’s December 2015 issue. He’s become Galeria Lyons most prolific seller this past holiday season.

Anderson also gave an art lecture to a group of aspiring young artists from the city’s deaf and blind school.

“I’m so pleasantly surprised by the reception my art has recently garnered, and this new opportunity with The Starving Artist and Limelight Theatre is an exceptional one," Anderson said.

“I’m humbly honored by the attention my work is receiving by art lovers, both locals and visitors – it’s totally unexpected and I’m thrilled by the number of sales I’ve experienced this past year.”

Anderson explains, “My creative time is limited. My vision will disappear and I’ll enter a world of darkness. I don’t know when, although I do hope it is later rather than sooner. I’ve accepted my fate and am enjoying the roller-coaster life has to offer – it’s a positive choice I’ve decided to embrace rather than fight. I’m thrilled and thankful that I’m able to contribute to society and the art world on my terms, in a manner I’ve created through innovation and creativity. I only wish I knew what my art actually looks like to the ‘sighted-viewer’ as my visual experience is totally different from theirs.”

Anderson's art is on view Jan. 21-Feb. 14 at Limelight Theatre. Box office hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday through Friday, and 2 to 5 p.m. Saturday. Show-goers also can view his works during performances of The Grapes of Wrath. For more details and tickets, go to limelight-theatre.org or call 904-825-1164.