Jul 24, 2023

Chloe’s Creative Journey with Vision Loss

Beacon Stories

Chloé Duplessis is a legally blind digital collage artist in Denver, Colorado. At 39 years old, Chloé was diagnosed with Stargardt disease, which was a pivotal point in her creative journey to becoming a full-time artist and owner of Duplessis Art.

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Headshot of Chloé Duplessis

Headshot of Chloé Duplessis.

Chloé Duplessis is a legally blind digital collage artist living in Colorado with her husband of 12 years and their five-year-old daughter. Her journey to becoming a full-time artist and owner of Duplessis Art wasn't necessarily a straightforward path, but she's grateful for what brought her to where she is now.

Growing up in Louisiana, Chloé was very aware and sensitive to blindness and vision loss, as her mother has retinitis pigmentosa (RP). She visited the eye doctor yearly for check-ups but never had any issues with her eyesight. When she was in her 20s, Chloé recalled noticing some blurry vision at the end of the day, but she attributed it to her eyes being tired from the long hours she routinely put in as an executive assistant in the mayor's office in her hometown of Shreveport. So, although she was familiar with RP, she had never heard of Stargardt disease until she was diagnosed about four years ago.

At 39 years old, when Chloé went in for her yearly eye exam, her doctor noticed some flecks on her retina scan, so he sent her to a specialist who confirmed she has Stargardt disease. Stargardt disease is typically diagnosed in adolescence, but that was obviously not the case for Chloé.

Although this news was a lot to process for Chloé, she recognized her diagnosis was a pivotal point in her creative journey. Chloé has always loved and created art, starting in photography in her 20s and making physical collages in her 30s. In those days, Chloé viewed making art as a form of artistic expression and a creative way to manage stress.

Once diagnosed with Stargardt disease, Chloé took time to meditate and reflect on her life. And as upsetting as the diagnosis was, she couldn't help but feel immense gratitude for the time she has had with her sight. She also realized her sight has only been one aspect of her experiences.

Chloe in front of her mural in Denver.

Chloé standing and talking in front of her accessible mural in downtown Denver.

"I thought everything I had worked to build in my life, and especially my career required my sight," says Chloé. "I had been creating art on the side for 15 years, but once I got my diagnosis, I decided to lean into my art full-time. I remember telling my husband, "Now is the time to do this," and I became even more focused."

Around the same time as her diagnosis, Chloé and her family were also planning a big move from Louisiana to Colorado. So in 2019, they relocated to Denver, and Chloé started working on her art full-time and founded the internationally recognized art practice, Duplessis Art. As her vision began to decline, Chloé shifted to graphic design and creating digital collages, filling her work with vibrant and high-contrast colors. Over the last two years, she hasn't stopped once, doing seven art shows, traveling outside the country twice, and making national news.

"I credit my art success to my faith and to my belief that life is happening for you, no matter how challenging it seems," says Chloé. "When life hands me a challenge, I just shift my energy and think about what I can learn from the experience. I acknowledge the fact that I am still physically living, so I have work to do, and I lean into the bright spots in my life."

With her central vision declining more and her sight fluctuating daily, Chloé uses her computer or tablet to zoom in and focus on what she's creating. Now, much of Chloé's art is centered around creating work that elevates the importance of equity and accessibility.

Chloé next to her "I Voted" sticker design.

Chloé next to the unveiling of her “I Voted” sticker design for 2022.

Since launching her art business, Chloé has also created two large pieces for the city of Denver. Last year, Chloé collaborated with half-deaf painter Valerie Rose to create an accessible mural in downtown Denver. Then the Denver Elections Division reached out to Chloé, asking her to design the city's "I Voted" sticker for 2022.

"I immediately saw the impact this could have not only for those navigating low vision and blindness but for those that are hearing impaired as well," says Chloé. "So, I told them I wanted the sticker to have Braille on it, use low vision friendly colors, and also to have some aspect of American Sign Language."

The Denver Elections Division approved her design, and now Denver (the city and county) is the very first in the country to have an "I Voted" sticker for voters that is accessible and inclusive for the low vision/blind and deaf communities.

Chloé's already planning her shows for next year, and the theme is "Vibrant Accessibility." Every show she'll do next year will encourage people to rethink what it means to be disabled.

"Every season in our lives has value," says Chloé. "Honestly, if I had not received my diagnosis with Stargardt disease, I may not have taken that leap into art full-time. In a way, my diagnosis was the permission I needed to pursue my passion. But remember, you don't need a diagnosis or a life-altering experience to prompt you to follow your heart. It's a choice. Just choose to show up and lean in."