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Through Virginia’s Eyes – Painting with Macular Degeneration

A famous local artist, Virginia Doyle, has graciously lent her work to Benetech/Bookshare for display on conference room and hall walls.

The unique aspect of this display is that in 2002, Virginia was diagnosed with macular degeneration, a medical condition of the eye that makes it difficult or impossible to read or recognize faces.  This disease is a leading cause of blindness among older citizens due to the loss of light sensing cells in the retina.

Many view her work as representations of the world through the eyes and lens of a person with macular degeneration.  Viewers glimpse the world she sees and the gentle places she builds that represent love, nature, peace, and family.

An Inner Landscape. A painting Virginia created while losing her vision of a photograph of her retina.

Virginia says, “Painting is a wonderful pastime!  A day will go by and I don’t know it because I’m so happily involved.”

Virginia painted as a young child in oil and acrylic and then moved on to watercolor, the most difficult of paint mediums, she laughingly declares.  “Watercolor is unforgiving.  You can’t paint over your mistakes!”

Today her artwork climbs over boundaries for a more abstract point of view, as she borrows ideas and images from life as a sighted artist.  A self-taught artist, Virginia took lessons in all types of mediums from print making to silk screening, color theory, drawing, and to etching.  Her free-style art combines the brilliance of Latin America, a place she has lived and the subtle light reflections of French Impressionists, a style she admires. Her artwork is a mixture of colors, shapes, shadows, and form reflections that weave and dance off the canvas.

What is it like through Virginia’s eyes to create her art now?

Left, 'Dancing with the Stars.' Top right, 'Hi Ya Toots,' and bottom right, 'Summer Foreclosure.'
Left, ‘Dancing with the Stars.’ Top right, ‘Hi Ya Toots,’ and bottom right, ‘Summer Foreclosure.’

“When I am in the mood to create, it is easy.  I don’t try to do what I can’t do, but what I can do…which is to use colors I enjoy in new ways.  Sometimes, in rare moments, I lose track of my everyday world and slide into a euphoria of my inner self filled with imagination and a love of life.  Now that macular degeneration has progressed to a stage where I am legally blind, I see less of my work and rely on the way it feels.”  For this reason, Virginia has branched out to create tactile banners and other art pieces and now adds collages and abstract elements.

“For those who have my disease, I would say that it is absolutely true that for every door that closes, another opens.  If I hadn’t struggled with my vision I would have never discovered the fun of painting outdoors with heavy tactile paints. When I painted carefully planned watercolors of scenery, it was hard work.  Now, I am free to create what my mood dictates.”

Benetech/Bookshare is featuring Ms. Doyle’s artwork as a tribute to people with disabilities and eye disease and to celebrate the beautiful world of abstract art seen in the hearts and minds of those with vision impairments.

Bio: Virginia Knepper Doyle received a BA Degree from the University of California, Berkeley, in English and Psychology.  Ms. Doyle has exhibited worldwide, including Le Grand Palais in Paris, The National Arts Club in New York, and the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in Beijing, China.  Her work is featured in many collections and in the 1995 edition of “Who’s Who in American Art.”

Visit her website at


  1. Through Virginia's Eyes ? Painting with Macular Degeneration ……

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