Photograph by Meggan Gould
Peter Kazanovicz is an ocularist with a small clinic at the Maine Eye Center in Portland’s Stroudwater Crossing. He makes ocular prosthetics—casting custom artificial eyes, hand-painting them, and fitting them for individual patients.
Natan Kahn, MD, a oculofacial plastic surgeon down the hall, refers many patients to Kazanovicz for artificial eyes. To match the eyes as closely as possible, he looks at the companion eye as he paints the artificial eye. This painted eye conforms to the orbital implant like a spherical cover.
“Everybody says, ‘Glass eyes.’ But they haven’t been glass since World War II,” he says. “Because we were at war, blowers here couldn’t get the materials from Germany. It’s all plastic now, which tends to be much more durable and lifelike and easier to work with.”
This case of seventy different blues, hazels, and greens acts as a sort of color wheel and also helps him determine iris and pupil sizes.
Kazanovicz works in acrylic, and he has about fifty different pigments for coloring artificial irises. “When I paint, I use the finest red sable brushes you can get. And I use the scalpel to take individual strands of cotton fiber and apply them to the sclera. They become the veins.”
Artificial eyes are considered medically necessary and therapeutic. “They are not cosmetic. It’s very hard to function in society with facial disfiguration. These devises restore the way people look and the ways they’re perceived. Sometimes when I make an eye for someone and fit them with it, they start crying. They’re just so happy. In most cases, we can make them so you can’t tell the difference.”
Maine Eye Center | Stroudwater Crossing | 1685 Congress St. | Portland | 207.772.1467 | maineeyecenter.com