Visual impairment : Vasculitis
The mind’s eye is something we have all heard of. Lisa Fittipaldi goes on to show us what it really is. Lisa is an incredible artist who began to paint only after she lost her sight.
It all started when her husband thrust a child’s watercolour box on her so she could get over her depression and stress that had overpowered her when she learnt her loss of sight was permanent.
Lisa was diagnosed as having ‘vasculitis’ (a genetic disorder that inflames blood vessels, blocking circulation to tissues and organs). While she had to relearn the most basic activities of daily living, Lisa became determined to regain her independence. After that there was no looking back. To everyone’s amazement, she began to paint, in spite of having had no prior experience with watercolours or art, and no formal artistic training. People told her that blind people couldn’t paint.
Lisa remembers: “I had lost not only my sight, but also my independence. Every time I I wanted to pick myself up and dust myself off, someone said ‘blind people cannot …’.” She asserts, "Just because I cannot see anything significant [she has lost her ability to see such basics as distance, print, colour or dimension] should not disqualify me from exploring life.”
She began to sample a variety of realistic subjects, from flowers and animals, to landscapes and still lifes. As her reputation as an artist grew, people would approach her to commission and purchase paintings. Most of her patrons did not realize that Lisa has never seen her own artwork.
She accepts the challenges of her critics and improves her work every time she starts on a new canvas. Lisa now includes the street scenes that depict vignettes of life in her repertoire. She is discovering that this genre permits her to tell the viewer what is in her ‘mind’s eye’. Each painting is unique and tells a story. Her abstracts, street scenes and other figurative works are in high demand. Her artwork won her wide acclaim both in print and television, in the United States and Abroad.
With all this success, it is perhaps surprising that painting was not her first career choice but before she lost her sight Lisa was a typical corporate executive. She was a leading financial analyst already on the high rungs of the ladder to success. Her clear competence, however, seems to have been disregarded when her eye problems emerged. Lisa lost her job soon after she lost her sight and her life was in chaos.
Naturally it took a while for her to regain confidence after this double blow to her confidence but her inner strength and determination eventually pulled her through and now she enjoys the reputation of a renowned artist. How she paints remains a mystery but we are all glad that she does because Lisa’s work contains bold colours, and scenes from all over the world. She says, "The images in my mind's eye became clearer as my sight diminished. Now, by hearing or experiencing something, I can picture it in my head and paint it." Her paintings adorn many famous art galleries and several personal collections.
Extremely intelligent and versatile in her talents, besides painting, Lisa runs a bed and breakfast, where she bakes muffins and bread for guests. She also pursues a bit of nursing, which she says is very satisfying.
She established The Mind’s Eye Foundation in 1999 to educate the public about blindness and to provide advocacy for the approximately one million visually impaired, blind and hearing-impaired people in the United States, a cause, which is very dear to her heart.
Artist, former RN, MSN, certified public accountant and financial analyst, Lisa is clearly a woman who knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. It’s difficult to imagine that the San Antonio, Texas, nurse-turned-artist was once depressed, confused and unsure of her place in the world, both figuratively and literally.
Her work speaks for itself and her paintings sell for hundreds of dollars with part of the proceeds going to Minds Eye Foundation.
Reaching this level of excellence needed a lot of perseverance and faith. Lisa proves to all that if you have the will and determination then nothing is impossible. She lost her vision but not her determination to express herself artistically. Her recently published autobiography, 'A Brush with Darkness' reveals her best and worst moments since that day in 1993 when darkness descended. It was five years, dozens of specialists and hundreds of tests later that she learned her blindness was caused by vasculitis.