Artist John McVicker has a display of new works opening at Stuart’s Opera House Oct. 29

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Healthy vision in many vertebrates, (including humans,) begins when light meets the retina. There, photoreceptors transform the light into electrical signals which journey via the optic nerve to the brain, where they are translated into the images we experience as sight.

It is due to this miraculous process occurring over and over and over again from the moment of birth to the moment of death that many vertebrates, (including humans,) can watch the stunning beauty of an inky night sky turning pinkish and orange as the sun rises or the odd grace of the wind tumbling an empty plastic bag across a desolate parking lot. It is also due to this process that many vertebrates (and, you guessed it! humans, in particular,) have developed systems to render the images they see or those they can imagine seeing in a wide variety of mediums.

This essential connection between the magic of vision and the craft of art-making is especially palpable in a display of paintings and digital collages by local artist John McVicker that will open on Friday, October 29 at Stuart’s Opera House and remain on display through the end of the year.

The exhibition features McVicker’s work from 2017 to the present, during which time the artist underwent both glaucoma and cataract surgeries. Due to his deteriorating eyesight at that time, McVicker shifted from painting to experimenting with digital collage, where he could easily manipulate the qualities of an image in order to make them discernible to him.

Artist John McVicker poses with one of his digital collages included in an exhibition of his work at Stuart’s Opera House that opens October 19 and that will remain up through the end of the year. (Emily Votaw/WOUB Public Media)

For all of us, change is hard – and imagining the kind of change that McVicker had to endure as he came to the realization that he could – at least for the moment – not create in a medium he had spent so much time with, feels overwhelming.

While the experience certainly wasn’t easy for John, it was not so bad as one might imagine. Why?

“I’ve got a lot of love in my life, for one thing,” said McVicker, who said one of his first forays into the world of digital collage began when he collaborated with his wife and Athens City Poet Laureate Wendy McVicker on a book of poetry and accompanying digital collages entitled Sliced Dark.

While the love and support of his family and friends did make McVicker’s experience over the past four years smoother, he expressed it is important to note his glaucoma and cataract problems are by no means his first experiences with vision issues. He was born with strabismus, which means his eyes cannot look in the same direction at the same time — making it impossible for them to generate three dimensional vision, which renders the world “flat as a snapshot” to McVicker.

McVicker is happy to report that he is able now to work again in both mediums and eager to share the work showcased in the exhibition at Stuart’s, which McVicker kept especially affordable in order to make it possible for a wider range of people to purchase them. McVicker explained that the funds raised by any work sold will be used to cover some of the expenses associated with the display, but chiefly as a donation to Stuart’s Opera House.

“Stuart’s Opera House is a resource not only for artists and musicians and theater people, but for everyone in the region. Also, I just get a kick out of sharing things with people! All I want to say with this exhibition is ‘hey guys! Look at my pictures!’” laughed McVicker. “I’m very much like a nine-year-old who just made a new plastic model and wants everybody to look at it.”

The exhibition opening is scheduled for Friday, October 29 from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Stuart’s Opera House, which is located at 52 Public Square in Nelsonville, OH.