Electronics lets blind artist keep doing work he loves July 30th 1981 Arizona Daily Star Artice – by Carol Sowell – photo by Ron Medvescek

Gordon Fuller is a man of vision.

Despite being legally blind because of a progressive eye disease, the 27-year-old artist is working to create a future of exciting possibilities for Tucson, for other artists and for himself.

In Fuller’s view of the future, the technology of electronics and computers will generate interest in local artists and strengthen Tucson’s sense of community.

The medium for making those dream true is cable television, said the resident of Tucson’s northside. As a member of the Tucson Commission of the Arts and Culture, he wrote the commission’s position paper on cable television. It is one of the research materials the city council is studying before awarding a cable-TV franchise.

While working on the paper, Fuller became knowledgeable about community access cable television. As a result, he’s invited to speak at national conferences, and acts as a consultant throughout the country on cable-TV programming by community groups.

Fuller, a Sedona native, said his lifelong ambition was to be an artist. He began studying art in childhood, and received a fine arts education in Amsterdam, Netherlands at age 14.

But his plans changed when Fuller was 18. He learned that his eye disease, retinitis pigmentosa, eventually would deprive him of his sight. He reacted to the news with, “total and utter shock,” and felt “useless, futile and hopeless,” Fuller said.

Believing a career in art would be impossible he took courses in Business at Arizona State University, journalism and public relations at Northern Arizona University, now art and computer science at University of Arizona.

At 20 he moved to Phoenix and opened a graphic-arts business, working with advertising and public-relations agencies.

Although successful running his ad agency Fuller realized, “I was not fulfilling my promise as an artist.” By that time Fuller could no longer see well enough to drive, but he decided to be an artist anyway.

Four years ago he returned to Tucson where he had lived as a child, and promptly became involved with the local arts scene. He has been learning about computer graphics with his brother, an astrophysicist and data scientist and decided, “Digital was an opportunity to create a new medium for artists.” Fuller discovered that his eye condition was suited particularly to working with the bright light of a video screen.

Now, collaborating with engineers, computer scientists, musicians, television technicians and others, Fuller produces video art electronically. With others interested in electronic art, he formed the Art/Science Center, a 501C3 non-profit community-service arts organization that produces video programs for community television. The center’s projects are financed by grants and in- kind contributions from industry, he said.

Sponsors of Art/Science Center allow Fuller to buy time on computers at the University of Arizona or he borrows experimental equipment from local labs and businesses. He is “keenly interested in exploring the creative possibilities of computer technology and the collaboration of arts and sciences,” Fuller said.

This spring, he trained a crew of youths who were deaf and/or blind which Fuller directed producing a video documentary of Tucson’s “Very Special Arts Festival”. The festival featured handicapped artists from around the state performing or demonstrating their talents.

The project led to he and his crew’s Memorial Day appearance on “Good Morning America.” The Kennedy Center for The Performing Arts sponsors the “Very Special Arts Festival” for which Fuller directed Arizona’s festival promotions and public relations. The cable- television project has absorbed most of Fuller’s time and energy for the past two years. He said his hours of discussion and study will be reflected in the City Council’s franchise decision. Although the arts commission does not plan to endorse any applicant, Fuller pointed out, “All 12 cable companies competing have proposed local arts and cultural channels.” Such a local arts and culture channel “can foster a great renaissance in terms of community access to local arts and culture. It can create national and international audiences interested in the arts here.”

When he is not involved with cable-TV or his electronic art, Fuller paints, draws, and writes science-fiction stories. Fuller is comfortable at the forefront of his many fields of interest – “I’ve always looked at everything much more closely than ordinary people do.”
Fuller describes his attitude towards his eye problem by recruiting the theme of the international Year of the Handicapped (1981). “Being handicapped is a state of mind” he serves as regional publicity chairman for the United Nations project.

Of his eye condition, he added, “It’s very difficult for me to be aware that my vision is impaired. It’s like any other personal characteristic. It caused me to be who I am. It’s given me some great insights into visual perception and the way the brain works.”

Fuller said he has taken advantage of all that technology has to offer in adjusting to his eye problem.
“Today, I live each day as it comes and work with what I have. It’s a battle I’ve won and don’t have any concerns with.”