Life through a new lens

Slip on a pair of 3D glasses and you'll get a sense of how Judy Matechuk sees the world. Last year the visual artist lost partial vision in her right eye. A vein blew up in the back of her retina.

Slip on a pair of 3D glasses and you’ll get a sense of how Judy Matechuk sees the world.

Last year the visual artist lost partial vision in her right eye.

A vein blew up in the back of her retina.

At first, she didn’t notice anything other than a dark spot in her field of vision.

She thought it was a floater, went to sleep and forgot all about it.

But the next morning it was still there.

After a trip to the hospital, she was sent to an eye specialist in Vancouver who told her the blown vein had caused blood to pool in the back of her eye.

The only way to stop it from getting worse was to get a needle-full of medicine in her eye every six weeks.

Her eye hasn’t gotten any worse since last year but she permanently lost 30 per cent of the vision in it.

“It’s dark now,” she said. “That’s the worst part.”

These days, Matechuk has a whole new outlook on seeing and she’s incorporated it into her latest exhibit, Through These Eyes.

Vision is a subjective thing, she said.

“We don’t even know if we all see colours the same way,” said Matechuk, her right eye slightly red from a recent trip to the doctor for a shot.

“Scenes always look different to different eyes.”

Matechuk’s work overflows with contrasting textures and colours teasing viewers to take a closer look.

Her 16-piece exhibit is a mixed media of felt, fabric, glass and tiling.

Aerial Spring incorporates scraps of corduroy, silk and velvet to look like a patchwork of farmland seen from the window of an airplane.

A piece of glass with a plow sandblasted into it overlays the work.

“It’s a piece a lot of people have told me they relate to,” she said.

Her other works, all landscape, are inspired by many of Matechuk’s travels, the most recent of which was a trip to Alaska for her 40th wedding anniversary.

View from Alaska State Ferry is a fabricscape with a sand-carved humpback whale diving into dark blue water.

Matechuk stumbled across sandblasting by accident.

Her husband used to use a sandblaster for his business.

One day the wood artist was toying around with the machine and made a picture on a piece of glass for his daughter.

It sat around the house for awhile until Matechuk placed a piece of fabric behind it.

“It caught the facets of the glass in just the right way,” she said.

“It made the piece look really nice rather than just blah.”

Matechuk started experimenting with sandblasted glass and fabric.

In May 2004, her piece View from God’s Shoulder was awarded Best of Show in the Captain Martin House Points of View Exhibition.

“The award blew me away,” said the 62-year-old, explaining she only started making art six years ago.

Since then she taught herself how to use Photoshop to create negatives of images that she could sandblast onto glass.

Then she learned how to do image transfers onto the backs of large glass tiles you’d find inside swimming pools.

Reflection is a mirror-image of Aerial Spring that she heat-baked onto a set of tiles. It’ll be displayed on the floor of Arts Underground.

Matechuk may have trouble seeing with her right eye these days but it hasn’t stopped her from using computers and sandblasters to create her work.

“I was briefly disappointed that my eye didn’t regain full vision,” she said explaining she sees a persistent view of black mesh when she closes her left eye.

“But it also could have been a lot worse.”

If the blown vein had happened 10 years ago, Matechuk likely would have gone blind.

With the help of a new cancer drug – made from the ovaries of Chinese hamsters, strangely enough – she’s recovered.

“Before there used to be a whole map of Canada that blocked out everything (in my field of view),” she said.

“Now it’s down to PEI.”

Matechuk’s exhibit, Through These Eyes opens at Arts Underground Friday night at 5:00 p.m. and runs until November 10.

Contact Vivian Belik at