Deafblind but i discovered sculpture

Lorraine Preisner was deaf and losing her sight when she discovered sculpture as a form of expression

As a paint and ceramic artist I feel I have something unique to contribute to the art world with my bold designs. I also have Usher syndrome, a genetic condition which means I have combined hearing and sight loss. I guess I’m termed deafblind.

Despite being born with a hearing loss, throughout school I was labelled as having learning difficulties and my hearing loss was undiagnosed until my mid-teens. I was in my thirties when I was first told I was going blind. My world fell apart. I began to grieve for all the things I would never be able to do.

I had to give up my work as a nursery nurse when my sight and hearing deteriorated. I became depressed, isolated and frustrated. The thought of being plunged into darkness and dependent on others filled me with despair.

With my emotions in turmoil I decided to pursue my dreams while I had some sight. I wanted to dance, create art, paint and perhaps rule the world. I had to do this before it was too late.

In desperation, I enrolled on an advanced art course and Egyptian dancing. I quickly learned there is a lot of stigma attached to deafblindness; people assumed those who are deafblind cannot achieve very much.

While at college I discovered sculpture and found I could express myself wholeheartedly. My work caused a stir. As my art progressed, people were amazed and it was suggested I continue my studies at university. I was afraid of taking such a huge step but was driven by my deteriorating eyesight and the desire to succeed.

As a deaf child I relied intensely on expression to understand people’s emotions. The face had become a vital way of understanding how I understood the world. This has led to a fascination for faces and exploring the human form has become an obsession in my art.

Texture and touch are very important to me as a deafblind person. I use colour and texture on one side of the face to convey emotions, such as spikes for sensitivity and circles for passion.

My sculpture has always been intended for disabled people, as galleries and exhibitions usually forbid touching artwork. At a Sense North birthday celebration I met Thomas Lafferty, a deafblind man, who touched my work and asked me questions. It was such an honour and a moving experience for me to see how a deafblind man can appreciate and share the beauty of art.

I receive support from social services and have been involved in Lancashire Council’s dual sensory loss awareness training. Aimed at front-of-house staff, assessment officers, social workers and care providers, the training courses are planned and delivered by support officers. But staff believe contributions from deafblind service users are essential.

My aim is to make art accessible to all and to become an established artist. One day I may even rule the world!

Lorraine Preisner has dual sensory loss and is a sculptor

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