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Blind Ambition: Carving Out a Niche

Posted September 3rd, 2015

Ron and ClarissaOn Saturday, September 12, Guiding Eyes for the Blind graduate Ron Davidson (of Mount Kisco) will open Blind Ambition: Carving Out a Niche, a solo woodcarving exhibition at the Gallery in the Park in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation. Presented by Westchester County’s Art in Parks, the exhibition will run through Sunday, November 1. A portion of the proceeds from artwork sales will be donated to Guiding Eyes for the Blind and the Friends of Trailside Museum and Ward Pound Ridge Reservation.

Westchester County’s Art in Parks program is designed to create an appreciation for artwork by people of all ages with changing exhibitions by accomplished regional artists throughout the year. The public is invited to attend the opening reception for Blind Ambition, which will be held at the Gallery in the Park on September 12 from 1-3pm.

Although totally blind, Ron Davidson refuses to allow his physical challenge to prevent him from expressing himself artistically. Working in perpetual darkness, Davidson found a way to create what sighted people would find it difficult to imagine a blind person creating: sculpture.

Davidson’s struggle with visual impairment began during his boyhood. At age 14, he was diagnosed with Uveitis, which later developed into Iritis, a disease that damages the eye’s pupil and uvea. Four years later, an industrial accident left Davidson with a destroyed right eye and vision 70% diminished in his left eye. In spite of this disaster, he managed to acquire from his father, a police officer who was fond of building things out of wood, the woodworking skills necessary to create furniture and cabinets.

Ron and ClarissaAs an adult, Davidson parlayed his woodworking skills into a successful career designing and building cabinets for a school district in Kansas. By the late 1990’s, however, the field of vision in his one remaining eye had shrunk to the size of a dime. Performing work-related tasks became increasingly difficult and Davidson was eventually forced into early retirement.

Disaster struck again in 2000 when Davidson’s glaucoma worsened to the point where it caused his retina to rupture, destroying what little vision remained. Blindness notwithstanding, he was determined to keep busy in retirement. Davidson still wanted to work with wood, but also wanted to create art. He acquired a woodcarver’s knife from some friends, who instructed him in the basics of woodcarving. “Don’t scratch your nose until you lay your knife down,” they warned him.

Davidson now focuses his talents on creating intricate wooden sculptures as well as detailed relief carvings. “For sculptures, I employ plastic models as guides, using a knife and various gouges to transfer what I feel to the wood,” he explained. “For raised carvings, I worked out a system using a laser and guidance from friends to create a surface pattern on the wood consisting of raised lines that guided me as I carved images.” As he labors, Davidson gages his progress using a bamboo skewer and his fingertips, which serve as his eyes.

“For me, carving has become a labor of love,” said Davidson, who resides in Mount Kisco with his wife, Becky Barnes Davidson, also a Guiding Eyes graduate, and their guide dogs, Clarissa and Lawson.

Gallery in the Park is housed in Ward Pound Ridge Reservation’s administrative building located at the junction of Routes 35 & 121 South, Cross River, NY 10518. Admission is free. For more information, call (914) 864-7317 or visit http://parks.westchestergov.com/art-in-parks

Ron & Clarissa