Artist Chloe Duplessis first learned she was losing her sight a little over a year and a half ago. But that’s done nothing to stop her — this month, the Denver area artist has both demonstrated her talent and fought for racial equality with her latest project, Negro Stories, which launched on YouTube with a virtual tour on January 11.
The 30-minute tour of Negro Stories includes works that tell stories of racial discrimination that Duplessis has heard from friends, family members, others — and stories that she experienced firsthand.
“The notion that this is a faroff problem is not authentic in nature,” Duplessis said. “There just are things we have to endure that people, if it’s not their experience, they don’t know. We’re really sharing these stories in a way that is respectful and kind, but also in a way that is transparent.”
Doing work like this inherently comes with difficulties, and for Duplessis, creating art has required her to navigate an extra challenge on top of the others. Duplessis is legally blind — in 2019 she was diagnosed with a genetic disorder called Stargardt Disease, which causes the progressive loss of sight. In some cases, the disorder can also lead to colorblindness.
But Duplessis hasn’t lost her vision completely — and she’s found ways to continue creating.
“I’ve found that digital work is the perfect medium,” she said. “I can enlarge things and make adjustments in real time, and there are certain tools in the software I use that support that.”
Her disability hasn’t only caused Duplessis to explore new methods of creating. She says it’s also changed elements of her work itself.
“You’ll see my work has really bold and vivid colors because it just makes me feel good. I want to appreciate that as long as I can,” she said. “While I’m still not a fan of the diagnosis, it is what it is. So I have a choice: I can wait for the curtain to close or I can show up as the light and create this meaningful work.”
And without a doubt, the work in Negro Stories brings a meaningful perspective to the conversations we’re having in Denver and across the country.
“For far too long, the discussion of racial discrimination has been reduced and compartmentalized to communities of color,” Duplessis said. “When you reduce it to a community of color and choose not to deal with it, even if you’re not actively doing something against communities of color, you are protecting the very system that allows this to continue. You can’t talk about collective healing until you talk about collective trauma.”
As for an in-person experience, the show goes up at Converge Denver, 3327 Brighton Boulevard on February 1 and will stay up through February 28. Duplessis will also give in-person tours of the work every Monday in February. Visitors are asked to reach out before showing up at the exhibition.
In the meantime, even though the exhibition is already up and running, that doesn’t mean Duplessis is done creating for Negro Stories. She’ll be collecting stories and crafting new artwork for the project through December of this year.
“If you witnessed discrimination, if you’re multicultural, if you’re a person who is not a person of color but you had a similar situation,” she said, “we want to hear from you.”