Tag Archives: disabled artists

Creative Work: Yinka Shonibare, MBE

Everybody, I have found my new art crush. Yinka Shonibare, MBE is a British-Nigerian artist with an impressive list of awards, publications, and gallery exhibitions on his resume. And I am all kinds of in love with his work, from his art installations to his gallery pieces. I do love an artist with flexibility who  is just as likely to be found on the stage as in a gallery. And I like an artist who forces me to confront things about myself, to boot.

A headless mannequin in an ornate batik dress, leading three ocelots.

This piece is ‘Leisure Lady (with ocelots)’ and it pretty much sums up everything awesome about his work. For this sculpture series, he explores batik and other traditional textiles in ornate, beautiful gowns (seriously, if he did garment construction, I would totally be ordering from him) with clear Victorian influences. The headlessness of the mannequin provokes all kinds of thoughts in my head about identity; you could also read it as dehumanising, but I think it’s more complicated than that.

Two headless mannequins dressed in ornate and beautiful gowns. Each is holding up a pistol to aim at the other.

‘How to Blow Up Two Heads at Once (ladies).’ It’s disturbing. It’s challenging. It’s beautiful.

This quote about his work sums it up better than I can:

Known for using batik in costumed dioramas that explore race and colonialism, Yinka Shonibare MBE also employs painting, sculpture, photography, and film in work that disrupts and challenges our notions of cultural identity. Taking on the honorific MBE as part of his name in everyday use, Shonibare plays with the ambiguities and contradictions of his attitude toward the Establishment and its legacies of colonialism and class. In multimedia projects that reveal his passion for art history, literature, and philosophy, Shonibare provides a critical tour of Western civilization and its achievements and failures. At the same time, his sensitive use of his own foibles (vanity, for one) and challenges (physical disability) provide an autobiographical perspective through which to navigate the contradictory emotions and paradoxes of his examination of individual and political power. (source)

Creative Work: Wolfie E. Rawk

Fiber artist Wolfie E. Rawk explores disabled and trans identities in his work, and is a spinner, which I find tremendously exciting because I’d really like to learn to spin. He also works with youth artists, and is ‘currently facilitating a series of collaborative queer quilting bees with fellow queer, transgender and allied folks in West Philadelphia with the help of a Leeway Foundation Art and Change Grant.’ I think it’s official: I have a new Art Crush.

Here are are some of Rawk’s pieces:

An embroidery on canvas piece. The embroidery is red, and maps out different parts of a body, while leaving lots of white space.

‘Body Mapping–Never Give Up’ is an embroidery on canvas piece that I find intensely visually interesting. Interacting with it personally, it speaks to a lot of the disassociation I feel from my own body as a transgender person struggling with the aspects of my body that are not in alignment with my gender identity, and also to my own ongoing exploration of my body, and the social attitudes about body and propriety that act to reinforce the sometimes overwhelming disassociative emotions I experience.

A pen and ink drawing of a figure in bed, with another figure superimposed. Visual elements like musical notes, animal figures, and scrawling handwriting are strewn across the page.

‘Moar Bubblz.’

Rawk erases and recreates drawings to mirror an epileptic view of the world in which grounds are swiftly changing underfoot, identities are erased and recreated and cultural knowledge comes by personal directives.

You can see a video interview with Rawk here (with a spinning demonstration!). Here’s a transcript, kindly provided for me by Rawk:

My name is Wolfie E. Rawk and I moved to Philadelphia in 2008, and I came here because of the queer, transgender and arts community. My medium of choice is fabric art and fibers. And this piece is called, tentatively, “Stick with your kind” I think it’s about violence and being trans. It’s like, “stick with your kind,” like, someone else telling you that but also internally thinking that for safety. Well, I use fabric as a medium because I think it’s really utilitarian, being a transgender and disabled person I have like a really fragmented view of realities sort of? Or like, like, I have epilepsy and when I have seizures it’s kind of like it can be, like, a really violent jarring break from reality, or it can be this really sort of like soft like sedated experience. I make my own yarn, some of it is like this stuff right here. Using fabric in my work I can like mirror this sense of violence that I’ve had internally and also, like, done to me. And I can sort of make steps to heal that by sewing the pieces of fabric or by mending them or kind of recreating this sense of reality that more matches my internal existence. I think art for social change, in my interpretation, is kind of…there’s an internal process where art can be very healing or have this really healing power that can kind of soothe wounds that are inflicted on people, either on an individual level or on a community level. My visual experience as a person with epilepsy is like having this really like double time, superimposed, fragmented reality when I have seizures sometimes. The visuals just like hit me, kind of like almost like hit me in the eyeballs. (laughs) It’s hard to explain, but I think that’s why I layered the tissue paper so much and also had this violent aspect of tearing it. I think that I wanna continue working with transgender and queer people on, like, community healing projects. I think that having that extra money just really invigorated the project, like, I wouldn’t have been able to get a spinning wheel or like the batting for the quilts or a quilting frame, things that are really important that I could have done the project without but it would have been a lot harder I think. My epilepsy as well, it’s kind of like this repetition of like the seizing and the convulsing and how that can actually be calming I think. There’s a lot of ableism out there that looks at disability like it’s undesirable or like it’s kind of like a life experience that isn’t worthwhile or kind of like should be bred out of people. But I don’t experience it that way at all, I wouldn’t give it up. (laughs) Like art and social change for me, kind of, lifts up those voices that are routinely suppressed or ignored or shut down and it gives them space in the world (laughs).

Recommended Reading for June 15, 2010

dhobikikutti (DW): This is also needed: A Space In Which To Be Angry

And what I have realised is that there is a sixth component to [personal profile] zvi‘s rules, and that is that complaining about and calling out what you do not like does help, slowly, painfully, get rid of it.

Every time I see friends who make locked posts about fic that Others them, that writes appropriatively and ignorantly and dismissively and condescendingly and fetishistically about their identities, I think — there needs to be a space where this can be said.

damned_colonial (DW): Hurt/comfort and the real world [warning: derailing in comments]

Writing a short ficlet in which someone who has been abused/injured/disabled/etc is “comforted” and feels better seldom bears much relation to the reality of abuse/injury/disability/etc. Which, OK, we write a lot of unrealistic things. The problem with this one is that the idea of hurts being easily cured/comforted is one that also exists in the real world and harms real people. Almost anyone with a real-world, serious “hurt” has had people dismiss and belittle their experience on the assumption that they “should be over it by now” or that “if you just did X” the problem would go away. People are often treated badly or denied care on these grounds.

Pauline W. Chen, M.D. (New York Times): Why Patients Aren’t Getting the Shingles Vaccine

“Shingles vaccination has become a disparity issue,” Dr. Hurley added. “It’s great that this vaccine was developed and could potentially prevent a very severe disease. But we have to have a reimbursement process that coincides with these interventions. Just making these vaccines doesn’t mean that they will have a public health impact.”

Trine Tsouderos (Chicago Tribune/L.A. Times): The push and pull over a chronic fatigue syndrome study

Nine months later, the joyous mood has soured. Five research teams trying to confirm the finding have reported in journals or at conferences that they could not find the retrovirus, known as XMRV, in patients diagnosed with chronic fatigue syndrome, casting grave doubts on the connection.

Kjerstin Johnson at Bitch Magazine’s Sm{art} blog: Riva Lehrer’s body of art

To Lehrer, who has spina bifida, “Disability and art are natural partners. In order to have a good life with a disability, you have to learn to re-invent your world almost hour by hour. You discover ways to re-imagine everything, and how not to take the average answers to everyday questions…”

Feasting the Eyes: Visual Art Created by Disabled Artists

This entry in our ongoing series of posts featuring works created by disabled artists is focused on visual artists.

A painting showing part of a golden koi, just one fin and part of the head. Leaves trail into the water around the fish and a series of ripples suggest movement.

‘Golden Koi’ was painted by Jeffrey L Salyers, a retired letter carrier with Parkinson’s Disease. You can read more about Jeffrey and see some of his work here.

A pen and ink drawing of a woman leaning over backwards, her back in an arch. Her hair and long skirts flow around her.

‘Lifted by the Wind’ is a pen and ink drawing by Heather Freeman of Fire Sea Studios. Heather also has a terrific blog where she writes about disability, art, and parenting.

A painting of a white chicken peering around to look at a human figure posed like a chicken, mouth open in a cry. Several chicks peck around the feet of both figures.

‘Self Portrait As Chicken’ is one in a series of intriguing pieces produced by Sunaura Taylor.

I’m also spending a lot of time lately at the Blind Photographers Flickr group, ‘for blind and otherwise visually-impaired photographers. How does having a different visual experience affect our photography?’