How much of the world do we know through our sight? What do our eyes perceive or signal in our simplest interactions with one another and our surroundings? These are some of the questions elicited by this quiet graphite drawing. Both a self-portrait of the artist and a portrait of his daughter, the image shows the intimacy between a caregiving dad and his child, Temma, who has cerebral palsy with spastic quadriplegia.
Set in Temma’s bedroom, Lowly sits in the foreground with his eyes closed, not meeting the viewer’s gaze and therefore complicating our expectation of a “self-portrait.” Behind him, Temma lies in bed. Lowly writes: “While Temma’s open eyes don’t see in a conventional sense (she is cortically blind), they do often indicate an attentive, utterly innocent presence.” In the background, the watercolor quilt by Temma’s Aunt Amy, rendered without color, suggests the limits of seeing.