Dallas-based artist Desmond Blair was born without hands due to a genetic mutation, but his disability never deterred him from following his dreams as an artist.
As a child, the now 35-year-old artist taught himself how to write and how to hold crayons by using his wrists. “We tried a bunch of things like putting crayons in my mouth or holding crayons with my feet,” he told CBS News. “I watch cartoons and so I wanted to learn how to draw the characters in the cartoons.” As he nurtured his artistic talent, Blair was eventually able to add vivid details to his work. When Blair became older, he traded in his crayons for acrylics, and eventually oil paint became his preferred medium.
His mother, who always encouraged him to find his own way of doing things, enrolled him in a summer art program when he was young. There, he met one of his mentors Emmanual Gillespie. That fateful meeting led Blair to his first public exhibit this summer at the Pencil on Paper Gallery in Dallas, owned by Gillespie and his wife, Valerie. Titled “In the Garden,” the exhibit showcases Black women portrayed as the biblical Eve.
“Here we have Desmond portraying us in this beautiful light, he captures our essence, our skin, our mannerisms, everything just stunningly,” said Gillespie’s wife, Valerie. “I think for me it’s just that he sees us, he sees us and he appreciates us and he translates that onto canvas so all of us can see.”
Blair is dedicating his upcoming project to his mother Joyce Blair, who passed away in 2020 after battling ALS. He considers her both his muse and motivation to continue creating art. “I wanted to make sure I was in the right space and place to be able to do it,” said Blair. “It would be like a full circle moment because (of) the things that she taught me growing up as she advanced with her disease, it was just like okay, we’ve done this before. We’ve learned how to adapt.”