Miles Buchan

Photo by John Eisele/CSU Photography

Outstanding Grad: Miles Buchan
College of Liberal Arts

story by Allison Sylte
published May 8, 2023

Art offers the opportunity to see the world through someone else’s eyes, but Miles Buchan’s work often tells the story of what he doesn’t see.

Buchan has oculocutaneous albinism and is extremely sensitive to light, making him legally blind. He’s set to graduate with a bachelor’s in art studio with a concentration in drawing, and uses his work to show the spectrum between sight and blindness – and to illustrate the difference light has on perception.

“My practice pivoted when one of my professors prompted me to ask why I was making the work I was making, and who I was making it for,” Buchan said. “She argued that I was making the work for people with a full ability of sight and that it was limiting me because I wasn’t working with my disability like I had the potential to.

“That’s when I started making art that addressed more directly my visual impairment and how it affects my life, and it truly led to a major breakthrough.”

It’s evident in his work. One piece, called Warp, illustrates the partial experience he sees in some landscapes where he can interpret some details but not all of them, and the hues of color that he sees in changing light conditions.

Another piece, Spectrum, demonstrates the broad range of vision between people with full sight and those with a disability, and allows viewers to interact with the world through different levels of sight.

“A big part of my artist statement is to get people out of a binary where they believe people either can see or they can’t,” Buchan said. “This piece is saying there’s a huge in-between where people have to do different things to accommodate themselves and ensure they can make it through life.”

Ajean Ryan, an associate professor of drawing, helped Buchan find his unique style.

“He’s had an awakening of sorts where he realized that art was going to be his salvation, and he’s really dedicated his energy to making that possible,” she said.

resilience on and off campus 

Buchan grew up in the mountain town of Steamboat Springs, Colorado, and said his disability often meant he didn’t have the easiest time growing up. He described himself as a “bad student” in high school, but one of his guidance counselors was adamant that he pursue higher education.

That led him to CSU, where he explored multiple career paths before landing on art.

“I realized over time that my vision would hinder me in one way or another no matter what I did, whether it was programming or an office job,” Buchan said. “So, I chose to pursue something I was truly passionate about.”

Along the way, Buchan has worked six different jobs during his time on campus to support himself, three of which he currently still has.

“Staying on track and being financially independent has been really tough – especially with going to school during COVID,” Buchan said.

Miles Buchan Sketch

“There’s a lot of really important things happening for me as of late, and it’s divine how it’s worked out that way.”

—Miles Buchan

Rosanna Bateman, an academic success coordinator for the CSU Department of Art and Art History, remembers Buchan telling her about his difficulty finding a job at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic since many roles required a driver’s license. Nevertheless, she said she was struck by his positive attitude.

“He’s really opened my eyes to the struggles that people with disabilities have, but his approach to it all has been really positive,” she said. “He’s always been so optimistic and willing to put in the work.”

Buchan’s resilience continued to show through when his father unexpectedly passed away during his junior year and he had to step away from his classes for a time to take care of his estate. Buchan’s father was a veteran who served as a paratrooper in Iraq and Afghanistan, and was finally laid to rest in Arlington National Cemetery a few weeks before CSU’s graduation ceremony.

“My birthday was on April 20, my dad was laid to rest in Washington D.C. on April 25, and I’m graduating on May 13,” Buchan said. “There’s a lot of really important things happening for me as of late, and it’s divine how it’s worked out that way.”

After graduation, Buchan hopes to start a career in art and eventually open a studio somewhere in Colorado. He showcases his work on Instagram and through a portfolio website.

“Miles has persevered and made art into something that he wants as a career, and I think he’s truly going to be successful in his own way,” Ryan said.

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outstanding grads

The Class of 2023 represents the very best of Colorado State University, showing courage in the face of adversity in the pursuit of their degrees. Read more stories of some of the outstanding students who are graduating this fall. read more