|In this modest house in south Toledo, the wild west comes alive.
He's never stepped foot in the desert, but artist Dave Wisnewski has
a fascination with cowboys, western lawmen, and outlaws.
"These are guys that existed in a time where I wouldn't last three days," he says. "It's still in the heart of America... they're the most American characters that we have. Even the bad guys are as popular as the good guys in these things."
Wisniewski describes one painting called The Gunfighter. "He's frightening. He looks like, 'There's no way you're gonna... all right just shoot me. Get it over with.'"
He paints from imagination. His canvases seem bigger than life, just like the men who inspire his work. "A lot of times I'm not looking. I'm just feeling what happens."
In fact, Dave Wisnewski doesn't see much at all. Not since 1987 when diabetic retinopathy left him legally blind. "They started doing laser treatments and, within one month, I was blind. I was devastated. The world was ending."
Dave's sight deteriorated to 20-800. That's legally blind. When he had to quit his construction job, he made what seemed an odd choice for a blind man. He decided to study art at the University of Toledo and graduated summa cum laude in 1998.
"My drawing and painting and sculpture teachers, they were like the three wise men. They actually taught me how to see again, and it was just incredible."
Dave's imagination began to take shape on canvas in the form of western heroes and outlaws. Each has a Dave Wisniewski signature: "All my paintings will have that same effect -- 'Wow, they're looking right at me.' Even when you walk across the room, they're gonna follow you. Even though you can't see their eyes."
Chrys Peterson asks, "Even though you can't see their eyes. It's kind of autobiographical for you, Dave?"
"It's kind of a negative of me. It's leveling the playing field," he answers.
Despite his handicap, Dave gives each character personality that jumps off the canvas. He also gives each a special name. One is called Checkers. That's the old man who owns the general store in the wild west town of Dave's imagination.
"He'd sit down and study that (checker) board. People would move. The only time you'd get something clear out of him is when he'd get all the way back to king's row, and he'd say 'KING ME.' And the people would say, 'There he goes again.' And that's the story with checkers," Dave tells us.
Dave's characters have found homes in Montana, Colorado, Texas and Arizona. Every canvas takes a little piece of Dave to the wild west. "When they do sell, you go 'Oh, I hope they take good care of them.' You care, almost like they're adopting these rather than buying them."
Chrys asks, "They're kind of like family to you?"
"Oh, they are family."