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Blindness Doesn't Stop Painter from Following His Passion

It's literal, ever-narrowing, tunnel-vision.

December 30, 2010|Doug Magditch |

HARTVILLE, Mo. — Some artists say they paint what they see. One Ozarks painter can't even see what he paints.

David Kontra has a degenerative eye disease called retinitis pigmentosa. He has less than 5% vision in his only good eye.

Watching Kontra paint, he might seem like any other artist.

If you look closely, you see small differences. A spot of white canvas shines through the paint, and lines waver.

...despite Kontra's trained and steady hand.

"I cannot see the whole picture, while I'm working or after it's completed," says Kontra.

He can see a little.  ...very little. Being a blind painter seems impossible, but don't tell Kontra that.

"It does require a lot of concentration. It does require a lot of training, self-training, but it can be done. If blind people are given a chance, they can do a lot of things," says Kontra.

By the time Kontra's finished, he'll have an idea of what a painting looks like. That's because he memorizes every inch, every brushstroke

"It's like looking through a straw with my left eye only. My right eye is useless. At the end of the straw, when you're looking through the straw, you see this little hole. At the end of that straw is blurriness and blind spots," says Kontra.

It's literal, ever-narrowing, tunnel-vision.

If you step into his showroom, what you see, Kontra has never seen. At least, he hasn't seen it completely.

Imagine spending months painting something, you can never see.


You might assume it gets frustrating to paint when you're legally blind, but it isn't for Kontra. In fact, he often paints to release his frustration with politics and the world around him.

It's a world that, he says, doesn't seem to understand the lesson he's hoping to teach.

"Disabled people can create art. visual art," says Kontra.

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