Shawna Carns with the James Memorial Art Center hangs “Detached,” a piece by Roxi Mathis. Mathis art is on display at The James throughout the month of July.

As an artist, one of the most important tools to utilize in your sight. While the prospect of losing one’s vision is scary, one artist turned it into inspiration for a unique collection.

In 2017 Roxi Mathis was seeing flashing lights across her vision. Two days later, she was in surgery to repair a detaching retina. In order to facilitate the healing process, the surgeon injected a gas bubble into Mathis’ eye to apply pressure to the damaged portions of her retina. A week later, Mathis underwent a second surgery, this time with silicone oil instead of a gas bubble, which she then lived with for the next month before undergoing yet another surgery.

The flashing lights, gas bubble and silicone distorted Mathis’ vision, showing her unique shapes images, inspiring her to create a one-of-a-kind art exhibition, fittingly entitled “Gas Bubble In Eye.” Using a mixture of paints and ink, Mathis has created landscapes and imagery of her favorite subject, her home state of North Dakota.

“Those experiences left me with a lot of inspiration for art because of the crazy stuff that I would see through the gas bubble or through the oil while it was in my eye,” Mathis told the Williston Herald. “So I tried to combine those visuals and that experience with the landscapes that I love.”

Mathis hails from Amidon, where she says she likes to “toodle around the countryside,” taking pictures of the scenery to use as reference for her pieces. While she also uses animals and people as subjects in some of her works, Mathis said she prefers to portray the visuals that she grew up loving.

“There’s a lot of nostalgia and love for the landscape in the area,” She explained. “I also just see the beauty in the landscape the way that I see it, and I want to try to portray that to other people. I know they see it in their own way, and I want to show it to them in my way, and we can have a dialogue like that without even speaking to each other.”

The delicate strokes of color from Mathis’ watercolors contrast starkly with the precise black lines from the ink, intertwining the landscape with fantastical shapes and intricate designs, coming together to create a complete and truly unique visual experience. More than 30 of Mathis’ pieces are on display at the James Memorial Art Center in Williston, where they will be shown throughout the month of July. Along with Mathis’ show, select pieces from the Bob Miller Permanent Collection are also on display, showing a view of Williston from the turn of the century.

Mathis will be taking part in an artist reception and discussion at The James on Friday, July 12 from 7 to 8:30 p.m. The reception is open to the public. Mathis’ exhibition is traveling the state as one of the North Dakota Art Gallery Association’s touring shows, and is supported by the North Dakota Council of the Arts. The James Memorial Art Center is located at 621 First Avenue West and is open from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Monday to Thursday, and 1 to 5 p.m. on Friday.


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