When I think of artists with disabilities, I tend to imagine Chuck Close, photorealist artist paralyzed from the waist down, or any other artist with the kind of disability I can visibly see.
In/Finite Earth: A National Juried Exhibition for Emerging Artists with Disabilities, gives a stage to young artists with disabilities across the spectrum of mental and physical health: autism, ADHD, blindness, depression, epilepsy, and obsessive-compulsive disorder, to name a few.
The exhibit is made up of one or two pieces of each of the 15 selected artists. The pieces are intended to highlight the intersection of viewpoints in “environmentalism, creativity, and disability.” What the pieces together create is something much bigger than themselves.
Arguably the most powerful contribution is by Madalyne Marie Hymes, with The Dyslexic Advantage. The 23-year old from Indiana created a large, multi-dimensional installation made up of placards describing some literal advantages of dyslexia, along with an island where Hymes shares direct quotes from others in her life who react to her dyslexia in different ways. The quotes are stacked and all crammed together, creating a daunting abundance of letters and quotation marks that look as fearful as they sound. Hymes, in being very personal and immersing, effectively gets her viewers thinking. The final touch of block letters on the table spelling “dumb” and “dyslexia” give yet another dimension to the installation while exhibiting the triviality of words.
Mary Datta, an 18-year old from North Carolina, presented Gossamer Boulders. Made from clay and covered in glaze, the piece comes together in a way that creates a feeling of discomfort, something probably intentional from an artist seeking to create “gossamer boulders.” What made the piece even more powerful was Datta’s description of her creative process. Datta, who is autistic, eloquently articulated, “Hands that cannot properly type can pull and build with clay. A mind that cannot put thoughts into words can mold words into shapes.”
The artists of In/Finite Earth are innovative in how use their disabilities to create something new. The exhibit promises to showcase intersectionality of the environment, creativity, and disability in every piece, but what the artists do under those constraints is all very different. The grand-prize winner incorporated plywood and paint strokes inspired by time and gravity, while a different artist, deaf from a young age and blind after a biking accident, sculpted a plain white bird, which became lost in the plain white background of the exhibit. The bird, weighted by its ceramic and plaster composition, exemplifies a natural internal response of those who face debilitating biological conditions: shrinking into themselves and hiding from the world. Luckily for us, the artists featured in In/Finite Earth show no such inhibitions.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Drive, S.W.
10 a.m.–5:30 p.m. daily
Now until Jan. 5, 2014