The most important, exciting thing Kirkby- Brown has learned as she lost her vision was to treat each day, each task, as an opportunity to play, experiment, learn new ways of achieving my goals.
“I have lost most of my useful sight – I have not lost my Vision.” Janice Kirkby-Brown
Suffering from Social Anxiety, she has often had feelings of being alone even in a crowd. It stems from an inability to connect with the people around me due to the anxiety levels I experience. Blindness can also create isolation given you can no longer see the same way as those around you see.
In Cell 3, Kirkby-Brown will be considering the isolation of women prisoners in C- wing, especially in relation to the ‘separate’ and ‘silent’ systems popular in the mid to late 19th Century. These systems deliberately created a space where prisoners would feel ‘alone in a crowd’ in the hope of encouraging them to introspect and recognition of their personal need to reform.
Kirkby-Brown’s journey as an artist began in the ‘Noughties’ when she lived in Weymouth, Dorset. Being diagnosed with Depression and Anxiety, the CMHT invited her to join a therapy group at the Portland Learning Stone Centre. For several years she attended the group. Within a few years she became a leader of this group, also tutoring in Art, Writing and Poetry. Kirkby- Brown’s interest in conceptual art, combining image and word steamed from her FdA.
Colour and texture have, over the years given her plenty of opportunities to experiment with art. During the final year of FdA (Foundation Diploma in Art) in Art, Kirkby-Brown became aware of changes in her sight. As soon as she had a new pair of glasses to help me see my work, everything would start to blur again.
Kirkby-Brown was told she was ‘too young, but did have Macular Degeneration in her left eye. Usually, if both eyes are affected, the diagnosis is similar, if not the same. Not in Kirkby-Brown’s case. The right eye has a Lamella Hole developing instead of degeneration. Kirkby-Brown was registered as Visually Impaired. For a few years, she has continued to paint, create and write. In 2017 Kirkby-Brown moved to Exeter to concentrate on her Magnum Opus – a crime story written as a series of Villanelle poems! This is currently an ongoing project.