An Artist Brings Beauty to Life Despite Visual Challenges | News, Sports, Jobs


Mirror photo by Patrick Waksmunski / Artist Sam Dietz works on a celestial painting in his home in Altoona.

Born with severe cataracts further complicated by glaucoma, Altoonan Sam C. Dietze didn’t let his visual challenges keep him from enjoying the outdoors or building a career as an award-winning artist.

His oil painting “Interstellar Filaments” appears in the July issue of Astronomy magazine, an all-arts issue devoted to the best space art from the International Association of Astronomical Artists. Oil painting is a “expressionist image representing a possible gas circulating in the early universe”, according to a magazine caption. Dietze is one of 42 artists featured in the annual special edition.

The magazine is available at newsstands and bookstores or can be purchased online at https://myscienceshop.com/product/ASY220701-C, IAAA President Aldo Spadoni said. Over 200 entries were received and only 50 were chosen.

“Sam’s work was selected for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that he is an excellent artist. In addition, he is comfortable with abstract interpretations of complex astronomical phenomena and concepts. We needed artwork to represent some exotic aspects of the early universe and his piece…captured that perfectly,” Spadoni said via email. He described Dietze as a “veteran artist and highly respected member of the IAAA. He explored the use of oils, pencils, acrylics and plein air paint to depict a variety of astronomical phenomena. Sam has a unique, instantly recognizable style with distinct paint shades and a bold use of color.

Legally blind, Deitze cannot drive. Instead, Dietze (pronounced deets-ee) rides one of his three bikes to the gym and for errands and relies on his friends Diane and Frank Barry. He met Diane through her participation in programs of the Blair/Clearfield Association for the Blind and Visually Impaired.

“I paint as I see things or work from my imagination” Dietze explained. “It’s been the same all my life. I have never experienced normal vision. I never had one. It’s a challenge. People don’t understand.

To read a printed letter, he holds it close to his eyes. For computer work, it uses extra large fonts to see the text.

Despite his disability, Dietze was successful in his educational endeavors while pursuing his interests in science, particularly astronomy. He earned a BS and MS in Astronomy from Penn State University, then a second MS in Astro-Geophysics from the University of Colorado at Boulder.

He coped by sitting in front of classes, listening to audio tapes and doing his best with “very verbal” professors.

His deceased parents raised him “can do” attitude.

“They said ‘there’s nothing you can’t do, you just have to do it differently'” he said. Aside from living at State College and in Colorado for several years, he has lived in Altoona.

The job proved elusive, so he turned to making art full-time. He painted in two different styles: plein air, painting plein air scenes while outdoors; and landscapes of the sky and other planetary landscapes using his scientific and astronomical knowledge combined with imagination.

“The outdoor scenes came from my love of being outdoors and being in nature”, he said. “It’s another form of science and seeing science in nature.”

Dietze frequently joins other local artists at Southern Alleghenies Museum of Art Altoona Community Creates events, site director Hannah Harley said. A personal exhibition of his work has just been completed.

“I found Sam Dietze’s art style to be a modern take on impressionism. His study of light in landscapes and imaginative skyscapes are colorful and vibrant. The works are neither rigid nor neat, but you can see that he is wonderfully attentive to light and changing colors. From a distance, the works appear as scenes, but up close they become colors side by side in a formation. » she says. “I’ve always loved Sam’s outdoor pieces. By painting outdoors, Sam can really concentrate and revel in the changing light and beautiful colors of a scene.

She also admires Dietze “generous spirit” as he helps newcomers learn.

“He has a generous spirit. Sam is a kind and considerate person and he is a talented and hardworking artist. This personality and these artistic characteristics come together (and) mean that Sam is an inspiration to many. His art continues to impress our community, and it will be so exciting to see what he creates next.

His love of the astronomical skies is expressed through larger canvases inspired by his upbringing, his imagination, and the photographic views of scientific travelers, such as the Hubble Space Telescope. However, he does not reproduce the photos but uses the images to fuel his imagination, he said.

Fellow artist and longtime friend Stephen Gilbert describes Dietze as “very thoughtful, intelligent and a little taciturn. He doesn’t say much most of the time.

The two often painted together, and Gilbert praised Dietze for his artistic abilities.

“He is completely self-taught. He pursues it very methodically and thinks a lot about his use of color. He is quite accomplished. I really like the landscapes he does. He has a wonderfully quirky way of doing it all his own. It’s obviously his job.

His style is evident in his broad brushwork, Gilbert said. “He doesn’t detail like someone with better vision would. His work has a bold freshness. It’s quite charming.

Dietze has seen his works featured in several solo exhibitions and won national, provincial and regional awards. A solo exhibition of his works is scheduled for February 2023 at the Bellefonte Art Museum in Center County.

Local resident Chabela Grabb, a former owner of a Hollidaysburg art gallery, is the proud owner of two works by Dietze on display in her home.

One work features trees in a wooded area with flamboyant leaves of different colors.

“It’s not very defined, but all together make a great combination,” she says. “I really appreciate his work.”

The other work presents a “beautiful sky with trees with dark blue evening sky. That’s wonderful. The colors he paints are wonderful.



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