Artist: H. Eric Hartman

H. Eric Hartman credits a succession of important mentors for his growth as a painter, but another profound influence on his work is intimately tied up with his own unique perspective on the world and his hope for the future.

Hartman has a genetic vision disorder called choroideremia. Legally blind, his functional range of sight is now limited to a narrow cylinder, and it continues to degenerate. He believes that within five to seven years, his vision will be gone completely. All of that informs his impressionistic style of painting, both in his practical technique and as the impetus that keeps him working.

“For me, art is a way of sharing the beauty I see with people, sharing a moment of time I know won’t be available to me forever,” says Hartman. “Emotionally, that’s what gets to me, the beauty that’s there.”

Hartman grew up in the same Mid-City neighborhood near Bayou St. John where he lives today. Many of his paintings are of scenes along the bayou, of oaks in nearby City Park, of the Mardi Gras Indians who traditionally gather on the banks of the bayou and of other distinctively New Orleans scenes. He received introductory art instruction as a child before his vision disorder was diagnosed, but it wasn’t until he had already built a banking career that he developed a serious interest in art. He began working with papier-mâché and sold his sculptures at the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in the 1990s. One year, an angel he made was selected as an ornament for the White House Christmas tree.

He moved to New England in 1997, where he learned to paint under the tutelage of artists Arnold Demarais and Lois Griffel. Since returning to New Orleans in 2001, he has focused his efforts on painting his hometown.

“People who are going blind, we all talk about building in our minds a scrapbook of memories,” says Hartman. “The extraordinary thing art has given me is that it has intensified the quality of what I see. I’m looking at the world through an artistic lens, but I’m not taking anything for granted.

“I’ll always be able to imagine something in an impressionistic way, the feeling of it. It’s like when you see snow and it looks blue instead of white or when the sun shines on something and it’s yellow with warmth. I’ll be able to elicit the details like that from other people. Having become an artist will allow me to continue to see even when I can’t.”

Hartman’s work can be seen online at www.art-man.com.

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