When Victorian artist Di Lockwood started seeing distortion of her bathroom floor, she found it rather engaging. It appealed to her creative imagination. Although she didn’t realise it at the time, it was actually a symptom of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
“I wasn’t worried about it at all, and actually only went into the optometrist because I needed to get my glasses fixed – I’d broken them.
“The optometrist told me it was time for a check-up, so I had a macula check… I was really lucky it was caught when it was, because it was really only by chance,” Di explains.
Di was immediately referred to an ophthalmologist for treatment for wet (neovascular) AMD in her right eye. A few months later, her left eye “crashed suddenly”. She now receives regular injections to both eyes to stabilise her vision.
AMD is the leading cause of blindness and severe vision loss in Australia. One in seven Australians over the age of 50 – that’s 1.3 million people – have some signs of the disease.
May is Macula Month, an initiative of Macula Disease Foundation Australia (MDFA), and Australians are being asked to visit their eye health professional for a comprehensive eye examination, including a macula check.
Before being diagnosed with AMD, Di knew nothing about the disease that has now compromised her vision. While she is still able to drive and read electronic books (with enlarged font), she can’t see faces in crowds, a loss that she finds hard to accept as an artist.
She says AMD has changed not just her life, but her art.
Her vision loss has made it too difficult to carve the fine lines required for print-making. Painting remains a joy and texture, colour and contrast have been more important in her work.
Di has used her art to express her feelings about macular disease and the Doveton Library, in Melbourne’s south-eastern suburbs, is currently displaying her exhibition ‘A Way of Seeing’.
Central to the exhibition is a mixed media canvas called ‘Landscape of My Right Eye’, which is an artistic interpretation of the scan of her retina. Several other artworks speak to macular disease, including a self-portrait – instead of weeping, Di’s eyes are bleeding.
Di hopes the exhibition will raise awareness of AMD and other macular diseases, and prompt people to book into their eye health professional for a macula check.
‘A Way of Seeing’ by Di Lockwood runs from 13 May to 24 June at the Doveton Library, as part of the 2019 City of Casey Exhibition Program. Entry is free. Further information is available: https://www.casey.vic.gov.au/events/way-of-seeing-di-lockwood
If you would like more information on AMD or other macular diseases, MDFA operates a free National Helpline 1800 111 709.
You can also order a free Basic Macular Degeneration Information Kit, which includes a magnetised grid and provides further tips on prevention and early detection of AMD.