Creative Work: Circle Stories, by Riva Lehrer

Riva Lehrer is a disabled painter who produces, among many other things, depictions of disabled bodies:

For Lehrer, the disabled body is intensely beautiful—memorable, unexpected, and lived in with great self-awareness. These are not bodies that are taken for granted or left unexplored. This beauty has often stayed unseen despite the constant, invasive public stare. Disability is complex; it demands images that combine hard facts with unexpected gifts. (source)

Her collection ‘Circle Stories’ consists of a series of portraits of prominent people with disabilities:

The term “Circle Stories” refers to multiple aspects of the project. The portraiture method is a circular one, involving extensive interviews with each participant, in which we talk about their lives, work, and understanding of disability. Through this collaborative process, we seek imagery that is a truthful representation of their experience.

In addition, the circle of the wheelchair is the nearly universal symbol of disability, a wheel that transforms the ordinary object of the chair into the mark of physical and social difference.

Some images from ‘Circle Stories’:

Susan Nussbaum, a woman seated on a balcony outdoors with a distant view of the ocean. She is gazing intently at the painter and a blanket is draped over her right shoulder.

Susan Nussbaum, an active member of the theatre community as well as a disability rights activist.

Rebecca Maskos, a woman with disabilities seated on a snowy stone wall with a blue bird hovering above her.

Rebecca Maskos is a German disability rights activist and artist.

“The body is the first story; our text of first meeting. I see you, you see me, skin, bone, eyes, hair: assumptions pour forth like a rip in a dam. See the thousand imprints of sex, nation, money, clues to the familiar and exotic. We read and decide in eyeblink time. When bone and blood show an unfamiliar shape, the judgments freeze into a first, rigid wall between you and I. So paint the story of surface and bone explicit, unavoidable, and ask what did you fear then and what do you think now.” (source)

This piece isn’t from ‘Circle Stories’ but I love it too much not to share:

A woman with disabilities in the woods in autumn. She is surrounded by bones and a paintbox lies next to her.

‘Into the Yellow Woods.’ I’m in a rather dark mood right now and this painting speaks to me.

You can see more of Lehrer’s work at her website!

About s.e. smith

s.e. smith is a recalcitrant, grumpy person with disabilities who enjoys riling people up, talking about language, tearing apart poor science reporting, and chasing cats around the house with squeaky mice in hand. Ou personal website can be found at this ain't livin'.

One thought on “Creative Work: Circle Stories, by Riva Lehrer

  1. I really appreciated the portrait of Brian Zimmerman. I’ve been feeling really gross about my body not fitting hegemonic standards lately, and it was really nice just to see something so celebratory and sexy and fun.

Comments are closed.