Art in mind’s eye for blind painter
For Bessie Dickins, visualizing a new work of art is key to her creative process.
Bessie, who lives at ACH Group’s Milpara Residential Care Home, exhibits three
works of art at the 2022 SALA Festival – quite a feat considering she is legally blind.
“I can see the art in my head, but I can’t see it on the canvas,” she said.
“As I have limited vision, it’s hard work and I try to control my frustration.
“Silvia Reitenbach, art teacher at Milpara, helps me choose the colors and shows me where to paint. She helps me, but she doesn’t do the art for me. I appreciate that and it’s very important to me, because it’s my art.
Bessie’s interest in art began in 1975 when she was inspired by the work of her friend who
was gifted in Chinese painting.
“I told her, ‘I can’t even draw stick men,’ but she encouraged me to attend her China
painting class at TAFE and I was hooked from the first night.”
Bessie continued to paint China until the late 1980s when she began to care for her.
husband. It was only when she moved to Milpara that she re-engaged.
The ACH Group artistic community will present more than 100 pieces in three exhibitions as part of the
SALA 2022 Festival held throughout August.
Bessie submitted three pastels on canvas titled: “The Third Day, Russell Falls”,
and “At noon”.
The third day is inspired by Easter Sunday.
“I got up early on Easter Sunday and on my way back to bed I went to see if the sun was up. The sun had just risen and the sky was beautiful, full of color and serenity,” says Bessie.
“The tall gum tree that I watch from my bedroom was completely still – there was not a breath of air and I was distraught. I am a Christian and I said to myself “he is risen”.
Bessie’s second piece, Russell Falls, is inspired by the porcelain plate she painted and created
in a clock for her parents’ 40th wedding anniversary. Russell Falls is one of Tasmania’s waterfalls
most treasured places and that’s where Bessie’s parents once went.
His third piece is called At Noon.
“At Noon is completely different from On the Third Day. Easter Sunday is light and cool and is
new life, as Good Friday is a sad, gloomy and calm day, which is reflected in the painting,” she said.
Bessie said the thought process is what she loves most about art.
“It makes me think. When I start something new, I have to think about what I want to do, I have to
think about why I want to do it, how will I do it, what is the meaning behind the work, etc.
“Friday afternoon is art class. I’ll set aside any other day for people, but I won’t change
art for anything except a very important medical appointment.
ACH Group CEO Frank Weits said the benefits of engaging in art are endless and that’s
why the South Australian aged care provider has a strong arts program in the community and in its care homes.
“Art stimulates the imagination, improves problem-solving skills, creates a sense of
accomplishment, can reduce stress and, when done in a group, is also a social benefit
experience,” he said.
“This is the 12th year that the ACH Group arts community has exhibited at SALA, and we are proud to have guest and resident artwork on display at such a well-known and public festival.”
The ACH Group theme for this year’s SALA is “The Invisible Threads – A Celebration of Connection”
inspired by a quote from Friedrich Nietzsche, “Invisible threads are the strongest bonds”.
“The theme encouraged the artists to reflect and draw inspiration from
ties in their own lives, which may be in response to relationships and experiences
with family, friends or the wider community,” Weits said.
ACH Group is a non-profit community organization that promotes opportunities and services
to support the quality of life of the elderly since 1952.