Marieke Davis | Blind Beauty Issue 43
Marieke (mah REE kah) Davis has a two-fold overriding philosophy that guides her life:
Art should be inclusive, not exclusive, and
Art should have an educational purpose that facilitates human understanding.
In today’s Blind Beauty Issue 43 you will meet Artist, Marieke Davis. Marieke’s passion for changing perceptions shines brightly through her extraordinary artwork.
Sight Stealing Diagnosis
Diagnosed with a massive brain tumor (pilocytic astrocytoma) at age ten, Marieke underwent three surgeries and 15 months of chemotherapy in the course of ten years. Although she has been intervention-free since her last surgery in 2011, she is permanently visually impaired with hemianopsia (half her field of vision in both eyes), and so uses a white cane to compensate for her lack of right-side vision.
Her love for creating art and for telling a good story took on a therapeutic objective after her diagnosis, but soon became intertwined with her pursuit of narrative art—art that tells a story. This pursuit was further developed when she enrolled at Arizona State University, (ASU) where she first tried her hand at Pop Art and discovered that the small frames used in comics and graphic series accommodated her visual impairment very well. She graduated from ASU last year, summa cum laude, with her Art major and minors in English Literature, Women’s & Gender Studies, and Creative Writing.
In the Bachelor of Fine Arts (BFA) program, Marieke experimented with various artistic techniques and mediums—emulating classic art masterpieces, such as depicting herself in the manner of Gustav Klimt’s “Portrait of Adele” and imitating Alphonse Mucha’s Art Deco style in her “Women of the Apocalypse” series, dabbling in intermedia, as shown in her objet d’art piece, “Sight of Hand,” in which she ironically decorated her first white cane with plastic “googly eyes” and attached a decorated plaster hand at the end of the cane to illustrate to the fully sighted that the feel of a white cane enhances sight for the visually impaired/blind, and creating unique jewelry—while almost setting her bangs on fire in the process!
Finding Artistic Expression
Ultimately, her artistic exploration led to her most comfortable means of artistic expression in graphic literature and comics. It was while she was teaching herself how to create the Prologue and first chapter for her series, Ember Black, that her ASU Disability Resources liaison revealed to her that her daughter is also a visual artist; however since she is completely blind, she has never been able to see her work. That got Marieke determined to provide an audio companion to her graphic series, in an effort to extend her visual art to the visually impaired. The audio version—complete with voice actors, sound effects, and music—along with the printed graphic version earned her the Audience Choice Award in the First Annual ASU Herberger IDEA Showcase, and she is currently working on Chapter 2 of Ember Black, thanks to a grant from the Arizona Commission on the Arts.
Concurrently, Marieke publishes “Life is Blurry,” an autobiographic, online comic strip created from the perspective of a “visually impaired visual artist”—such as she is—with the purpose of educating the able-bodied world through the most effective means she knows: humor. The strip was inspired by Alison Bechdel’s graphic autobiography, “Fun Home,” and was developed in her Women’s Studies course, “Chronicling Women’s Lives.” Excerpts from the strip earned Marieke a 2017 Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts VSA Emerging Young Artist award, and her entry is currently on a national tour. Eventually, Marieke would like to compile her comics into a complete graphic autobiography, but in the short-term, she hopes to have “Life is Blurry” become a nationally syndicated comic strip. Just as people of color strive for artistic representation, people with disabilities want to be represented in the arts, particularly in popular culture.
Past & Future Panel Presentations
Last year, Marieke presented a discussion panel, “Creating Ember Black,” at the Phoenix ComiCon, and this year she presented a panel, “The Philosophy of Rick & Morty,” and a lecture, “Introducing ‘Life is Blurry’ and Other Comics Created By and About Disabled Artists” at the Phoenix Comic Fest. She hopes to premiere Chapter 2 of Ember Black next year at the Phoenix Fan Fusion after her grant project is completed in March 2019.
See Marieke’s artistic and literary work on her website, mariekedavis.com, “Life is Blurry” and Ember Black, Vol. I on her Facebook page, Life is Blurry by Marieke Davis, and Ember Black by Marieke Davis.
Blind Beauty Issue 43 Featured Image Description:
The image is a faux fashion magazine cover titled Blind Beauty. Marieke is on the cover looking stunning in her black wrap dress. She has long brown hair cascading over her left shoulder and her bangs frame her pretty face.
Blocks of text superimposed on the photo are: “Bold | She Keeps Pressing Onward,” “Blind | She Has Deeper Insight,” “Beautiful | She Sees To The Heart Of Others”
- Image #1: In this photo, Marieke is standing outdoors with her white cane in one hand while she rests her other hand on a wall. She is wearing a dark paisley print dress with a scoop neckline.
- Image #2: Marieke is standing next to two of her pieces displayed on easels holding her white cane in front of her. Her red dress is sleeveless with a square neckline.
- Image #3 Life is Blurry comic strip: Two panels, Reality vs. Stereotype, shows how society views blind people. On both panels, a woman is standing at a corner crosswalk with her white cane. In the left panel, she is polished. The right panel shows the same woman as beggar dressed in tattered clothing, with dark glasses, holding a can. Her speech bubble says “Change? Spare some change for a blind beggar?”
- Image #4 Life is Blurry comic strip: This strip has four panels with two cosplayers talking with one another.
- Dracula cosplayer: “Wow! So, you’re blind? Are you supposed to be Daredevil?”
- Maria: “I’m the Silk Spectre. Y’know… from Watchmen? I’m also not totally blind.”
- Dracula cosplayer: “Still, shouldn’t you be Daredevil? You’d probably relate to that character better.”
- Maria: “I like Daredevil, but he’s not exactly realistic… lots of people don’t get that.”
- Maria: Blind and visually impaired people aren’t super-human. And we don’t need to be super-human to be super. I mean, I’m good at hearing cars, but that’s about it—“
- Dracula cosplayer: “LIKE DAREDEVIL?!”
- Maria: “I’M NOT DAREDEVIL!”