Dan Sullivan


In times past and nowadays as well, I've been a Mr. Magoo. Though not a case of wanting to be like this fumbling, stumbling, and bumbling cartoon character, it just came with the territory for someone with a unique acuity. That's just what happens when at age nine, you get tagged with the label of being legally blind. Caused by something called macular degeneration and later more accurately termed "Stargardts", I got to be known in my small Wisconsin hometown as the "kid with bad eyes." Like it or not, I was destined to be defined by what I could not do rather than what I could. It's an unfortunate dilemma for those of us challenged by adversity.

Although never in denial of this circumstance, it is something I did not accept and instead chose to defy. Despite having to dash and crash through the barriers, it has taken me over five decades to shake this stigma of being defined by a deficit. After discovering a program called Very Special Arts, I was encouraged to enter into an art exhibition. Only a novice at this time, I had no idea as to whether my wood sculpturing might find favor outside of my personal perspective. Being somewhat skeptical, I had to question as to what business someone with a major vision impairment had in creating visual art. This situation was most certainly a classic oxymoron. VSA however, had a more enlightening viewpoint. My wood sculptured decoys, known as "BOONDUCKS", won top honors and got showcased in a three year traveling exhibit. As a result, I began creating more artwork and seeking out other venues. Assisted by the National Arts and Disability Center, I learned of regional and national shows geared especially for artists like myself. Through Art Beyond Sight, All About Art, Insights, Shared Visions, and Art of Possibilities, my BOONDUCKS began migrating all over the country. They even caught the attention of Public Radio and TV. In essence, this vocation as an artist literally took flight. Now beyond my wildest imagination, keeping up with the demand is my newfound challenge.

Although I'm not sure this can be dubbed fame and fortune, venturing into art has more than enriched my life. Being acclaimed for ability rather than focused on for disability, has opened up my world. And what seems most rewarding of all, is that through art, even an old jalopy with faulty headlights can cruise onward and out of sight. Then again, if you consider the plights of Mr. Magoo, his fumbling, stumbling, and bumbling never stopped him from persevering. That's what art can do for each and every one of us.

Note: Dan Sullivan is a Northwoods Wisconsin author and artist, whose works appear under the pen name of D.S. Sully.