Art, In Spite of AMD

Macular Degeneration // Research News // Mar 19 2018

Jefferey Lange is fascinated by the beauty and arrangement of colors and textures. As an artist diagnosed with age-related macular degeneration (AMD), Lange is acutely aware of being able to see colors and textures.

Lange spent 32 years as a sociology and history teacher. His teaching was accompanied by years of coaching athletics – football, volleyball, tennis, and golf. Lange quips that he is a jock has-been and a former closeted artist.

Early in his teaching career, Lange realized that he was watching a decent amount of TV and had nothing to show for it. So he picked up a paintbrush. He retired from teaching in 1999, and then entered the art world, closeted no more. It was a part-time gig at first, but Lange’s experimentation, talent, and tenacity turned his artistry into a full-time career.

Then, around the age of 60, Lange learned that he had age-related macular degeneration. He was familiar with the disease. Lange’s mother was diagnosed with AMD around the age of 80. She lived with the disease until her passing at the age of 92. Her AMD eventually progressed from dry to wet, but she never reached a point where she could not see.

After Lange’s mother passed, he began to make donations for AMD research in his children’s names through the University of Wisconsin Foundation. He did not have a doctor at UW Health nor any other ties to the university. Lange just, “wanted to get involved someplace where positive things are going on so we can beat [age-related macular degeneration].” Lange has been supporting AMD research at the University of Wisconsin Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences for 12 years now. In that time, he has been invited to tour the research areas that he supports and has participated in AMD seminars.

One of those tours featured the lab of Aparna Lakkaraju, PhD, associate professor with the Department of Ophthalmology and Visual Sciences. Dr. Lakkaraju brings a translational background to her lab, and the team focuses on identifying drugs that prevent the onset of AMD. They have recently identified existing FDA-approved drugs that can inhibit the inflammatory processes that lead to eye diseases such as AMD.

Lange noted that, “There are so many wonderful things happening in research and to think that I played a small part in that is really important to me.”

Lange’s vision and quality of life have so far not been impacted by his AMD. He still seeks out athletic endeavors and rides his bike every other day. He golfs when he can. He experiments with oils, acrylics and textures in his art. His works are both serene and playful and do seem to convey movement and positive outcomes. “Get involved in AMD research. It comes with great personal reward, knowing that my donation is making a difference. I can’t overestimate how important that is.”

Gifts from passionate individuals like Jefferey Lange help support our research endeavors. To make a donation to the age-related macular degeneration research at UW-Madison, or any other research that supports saving sight, click here.

Learn more about age-related macular degeneration.

Jefferey Lange’s art can be viewed here, at The Paint is Dry Studio.