On Friday, an artist whose admirers include Elton (who purchased a painting in the mid'1990s) will debut his recent work at Atlanta's Mason Murer Gallery, the Journal-Constitution has announced.
Alan Eddy grew up mostly in Forest Park and Jonesboro but has lived for the past 10 years near Emory University, sharing a home with Marc Sherman, his partner of 24 years.
He has drawn for as long as he can remember: in school textbooks, in his mother's scrapbooks, and just about every other blank space in between. During his late teenage years, he briefly considered a law degree "I do like to argue," Eddy said but his enduring distaste for school shelved those plans.
He graduated from the Atlanta College of Art in 1987 and had his first art show one day later.
But the Mason Murer show consists entirely of work Eddy has completed since meningitis took most of his sight in May 2000.
The disease is an infection of the tissues, or meninges, surrounding the brain and spinal cord. The subsequent swelling of these tissues prevented substantial blood and oxygen from reaching his brain cells.
It's rare, the 43-year-old said, that meningitis affects one's sight.
"I got sick on a Monday," Eddy said, "and spent a week at home, mostly with terrible headaches and nausea. Eight days later, on a Tuesday, I noticed a gray spot in my vision. On Wednesday, I woke up totally blind."
Though he spent six weeks in the hospital and was told by doctors he'd never see again, Eddy never considered that his career was over.
Initially, he decided to reinvent himself as a sculptor. When he finally felt good enough to get out of bed, he began experimenting with large sheets of map board and dipping them into acrylic paint, which hardens into plastic.
His first completed project along these lines was a large (about 4 feet high) capsule of entangled, plasticized strips bent and curved, which he called "B.C. Shell" because it looked or at least felt to his touch like a dinosaur egg.
Around this time, unexpectedly, fragments of his eyesight began returning.
"Occasionally, I'd get these flashes, like a camera's flashbulb," Eddy said, "and then maybe a week later, I would notice I was seeing a little more light. This went on for a few years ? but I haven't had any more improvement in about a year and a half."
Eddy's eyesight has acute limitations. He describes it as a "permanent thumbprint in the center of my vision, and I can see around this print, although I can't see anything below my eye level."
"Colors are strange," he said. "Blues and yellows are like neon in a crowd they really stand out, while everything else recedes. Reds and greens go gray. When I see red by itself, often it looks orange."
With this partial restoration, Eddy started painting again. First he tried watercolors, then chalk pastel, but both methods proved too transparent and insubstantial for his taste and his sight.
So he started using just his hands and fingers, often, though not always, eliminating brushwork. In time, his canvases became buoyant with thicker textures, brighter colors and three-dimensional elements.
It was only logical that he combine these solid, very tangible painting techniques with sculpture. It wasn't only an artistic decision; it was also pragmatic.
"I have to really concentrate to actually see the surfaces of my paintings," Eddy said. "And with a large work, I can't see the whole thing I see it in parts. The way in which I actually come to know my pieces is through touching the surfaces.
"So you see," he said, smiling, "I am basically working by instinct."