Nancy Behles always knew that she wanted to be an artist. She began drawing at a very young age, went on to study painting and drawing in college, and never had any doubt that art was her calling.
Her artistic dreams, however, were nearly halted when Nancy lost her sight.
“I have always had poor eyesight,” Nancy described. “I got my first pair of glasses in kindergarten, and started wearing hard contacts at 16 years old.”
While she knew her vision was less than ideal, Nancy did not understand why her sight got progressively worse with each passing year. It wasn’t until she was 21 that she was diagnosed with bi-lateral keratoconus – a blinding disease
caused by cone-shaped corneas.
Nancy was suddenly faced with the reality of living with corneal blindness, and the possibility of having to give up her passion.
“When my vision was at its worst I couldn’t do much, including art, for several years,” shared Nancy. “I was legally blind without my contacts, and glasses weren’t able to correct my vision.”
Nancy’s keratoconus became so advanced that wearing contact lenses was excruciatingly painful. In fact, she was only able to tolerate them for a few hours each day, putting extreme limitations on the amount of time she was able to see.
Fortunately, she received renewed hope after undergoing her first corneal transplant at age 25. While Nancy’s disease persists even today, she has been granted the priceless gift of sight time and again thanks to the eye donors and
surgeons who have facilitated all eight of her transplants over the years.
Following these procedures, Nancy returned to her artwork in the early 2000s and hasn’t stopped since.
“After my transplants I was able to distinguish landscapes for the first time,” said Nancy. “I finally understood why so many artists were captivated with scenery, but I had just never been able to see or appreciate it before.”
Today, Nancy paints and draws numerous landscapes. In addition to painting on her own, Nancy has been teaching classes at the North Shore Art League in Winnetka for the past 13 years.
We are pleased to feature one of her pieces, “Green Field”, here to share her passion with you, and to celebrate the life-changing impact of corneal transplantation.
To view more of Nancy’s artwork, please visit www.nancybehles.com.