[Image Description: A rectangular, non-representational artwork with a mottled white and ivory background and a few faint smudges of red pigment. The canvas is spattered and encrusted with dark black and brown substances. Faint pencil scribbling and writing appears in the lower righthand quadrant; one can make out the numbers 15 and 5+. Near the center of the canvas, gold metallic paint drips down the canvas. To the left and below that gold paint, a splotch of dark gray paint also drips.] Work by Stephen Lapthisophon.
I have been viewing, analyzing, making, and experiencing work about disability, or work by artists who have disabilities, for a number of years now. The ways in which art and disability can be intermingled are myriad, and there are about as many intriguing ways disability may be expressed in art as there are artists who have disabilities.
Although all art is a commentary on the human condition and our perceptions of, or from, that condition, works that examine issues of embodiment, particularly problematic embodiment, seem to me to engage this commentary at its most raw and honest level, and I find that a heady experience.
Someone once commented to me that disability art, at its best, is like a quick slap to the face. Perhaps we are tapping into that experience of the sublime that stops us in our tracks for a breath or two. What we see and experience ensnares our focus, our attention, our being, and we depart from that moment, changed.
I am so excited to share with you the work of the artists featured in this, our inaugural issue. Their work, to me, represents that beautiful quick slap in the face. You will see a variety of media and of styles. Some artists speak visually with specificity about disability and some do not. I tend to think that when an artist who has a disability makes a piece of art, disability is always present, whether the work is overtly “about” disability or not. Disability is part of the artist’s identity and good work is almost always autobiographical to some extent.
Stephen Lapthisophon, in his statement, says that his work reflects “my interest in being in the world.” I love that sentence. All of these artists have made the choice to be in the world and their work communicates the essence of their unique states of being. It is first person, it is real, and it is beautiful. Enjoy!