Low vision means Mia takes a different view of art

06 March 2019

Rather than allow a rare genetic eye condition to keep her from her artistic dreams, Mia Armsworth has used her lived experiences as inspiration for a piece of work displayed at the Art Gallery of NSW.

The 18 year-old former Abbotsleigh School student will feature as part of the 2019 ARTEXPRESS exhibition, which opened last month, with a piece that draws on her experiences living with North Carolina Macular Dystrophy.

The rare condition means Mia has severely reduced central vision, no depth perception and struggles to focus on objects at a distance.

Mia was diagnosed with the condition at age four and rather than allowing it to dampen her enthusiasm for art, she believes it’s helped her gain a better understanding of her passion.

“When I was around four or five years old my preschool teacher noticed I was having some issues focussing on things. I had some tests done and that’s when I was diagnosed,” Mia said.

“When I was younger I was worried about what it would mean, I thought art was all about being able to look at things. I came to realise that everybody sees things differently and art allows us to depict that and let other people interpret it themselves,” she said.

Mia’s ARTEXPRESS piece, “How many fingers do I see?” is a photo piece that uses deconstruction and collage to encourage to people to reconsider their ideas about living with blindness or low vision.

“I hope the piece can encourage people to step back and think a bit more about how they approach and behave around people who have a vision impairment,” Mia said.

“You do come across a lot of people who have preconceptions about what you can and can’t do and a lot will ask questions like ‘how many fingers can you see?’ There can be some challenges, but living with a vision impairment isn’t something that has to stop you from doing what you want.”

Mia standing in front of her work at the Art Gallery of NSW

Mia’s experiences are a prime example of that, as she prepares for an upcoming move interstate to study at university. After completing her HSC, Mia was offered the chance to study at Sydney’s National Art School and place at the University NSW studying a Bachelor of Law/Fine Arts. Ultimately, she has decided to accept an offer to study a Bachelor of Arts (Fine Arts) at Melbourne’s RMIT University.

“I think the idea of somebody with a vision impairment studying fine arts might seem strange to people at first, but I’m really excited about it.

“I’m a little nervous about moving to a new city, but I chose RMIT for a combination of the reputation of its fine arts program as well as the fact that Melbourne has an amazing art scene and after visiting it felt like the right choice.”