“The only thing worse than being blind is having sight but no vision.” This is a quote from one Hellen Keller. Hellen was an American author, political activist and lecturer. She was also the first deaf-blind person to earn a Bachelor of Arts degree. She was blind but had a vision that was so clear to her. This brings us to the questions: have you ever sat down and thought how important it is to have all your body parts function, well, especially your eyes? That you can see all the beautiful things surrounding you? That you don’t need help to do basic things like cross the road? That the society doesn’t have to look at you in a certain way just because they feel you need “pity”? That life would just happen and one day you would lose your sight forever? Well, that is some food for thought right there.
Manuel Solano was an emerging artist when he lost his eyesight at the age of 26 years. Born in Mexico City in 1987, Manuel had his eyesight until the year 2013 when he lost it to an infection related to HIV. Due to his drastic change in life, some of his friends urged him to quit being an artist but he was unwilling to be hindered from his vision. He still had the zeal and could clearly see his vision of being an artist. He was not going to stop at anything.
Before losing his eyesight, Manuel was doing experimental art but after the ordeal, he began afresh with a series of expressive portraits and word paintings titled “Blind Transgender with AIDS” which he created a few weeks after losing his eyesight. It was and still is challenging to create works and not be able to see how they look but five years down the line, he is still doing it. It’s like nothing ever really changed for him.
Manuel paints with his hands using acrylic paint rather than oil paint. All his works are self-portraits; they portray him as an individual. He makes portraits of people drawing them from people’s descriptions, his daily life and his memory as well which is very good. For example, he made a portrait with pearls which is based on a photograph he saw when he was around 14 or 15years old. He has also made portraits of famous people like Michael Jackson (this is precisely because he draws a lot from the pop culture) Naomi Campbell and Niki Minaj. He also created work titled “I Don’t Know Love” drawn from the description of his friend when they had attended a Halloween party in 2016 while he was still blind. His friend described the sky, sunset clouds; the description was the starting point of that painting.
Any painter needs his sight more than anything else. To see the colors he will use, how to mix them and the final product of his painting. So now for Manuel, how does he go around with his painting career? Does he have someone he works with? The sense of touch is Manuel’s main guide as he cannot see. He works alone sometimes although there are days he works with an assistant depending on the type of work he is about to create. The assistant follows his instructions of how he wants the colors mixed, gives him his idea of what he can see about the final paintings plus he is able to work even faster when assisted. Through the use of his hands, Manuel can tell the space he is working on.
The best part of Manuel’s story is that he successfully exhibited his work at Karen Huber Gallery which put him at the forefront of Mexico City’s emerging art scene. His work has also been acquired by the Institute of Contemporary Art Miami. Today, Manuel woks across paintings, performance, and video.
His left eye sees blackness and his right eye sees a white nothing ;sadly the blindness cannot be corrected because it’s now too late but ever since he lost his eyesight, his thoughts and vision of being an artist became clearer than ever before and he now puts himself to the world through his artwork. Art was all he ever wanted to do and blindness is not a reason enough to quit.