Many thanks to Martin Sweeney for his gracious review of Opulent Mobility 2017!
We Are All Buried Treasure
Raise the subject of Disability Culture and most people will have no idea what you’re talking about. It’s something most audiences never consider. Well, here’s an opportunity to broaden those horizons: The Opulent Mobility 2017: Re-imaging Disability and Mobility.
The show hits its target head-on and challenges its audience to flip a perception of disability from the context of wheelchairs, walkers, prosthetic limbs, crutches and other adaptive technology devices as medical hardware into a whole different experience about design, function and form. Whoa, now we’ve entered into a cultural terrain and the terra-firma is beginning to shake.
Opulent Mobility 2017 highlights work by nine artists who tackle themes that dig deep into questions of identity and perception. Leading the way is A. Laura Brody’s The Kali Walker. Her version of Kali—the Hindu goddess of time and empowerment and a renowned slayer of demons—is an aluminum walker with re-purposed leather stitched together to birth a full-throttled vision of the goddess. Brody challenges the audience to see disability and aging as something other than as a tragedy, weakness, and something to be feared. Kali in her walker represents a different truth—that time catches up to us all, and that strength and ferocity are not measured by physical ability.
Yaron Dotan’s painting The Constant Song explores both visual and psychological dislocations related to vision and perception and challenges the viewer to look again to see what might not have been seen before.
Gabriele Gervickaite amplifies the conversation to include two mixed-media works that examine the connection between disability and the various techno-constructions, wheelchairs, and prostheses to relationships between disability, technology and sexuality.
Gini’s Creating Freedom is a digitally manipulated versionof Michelangelo's Sistine Chapel painting, Creating Adam. Gini altered the painting to include a wheelchair and 2 crutches. God on four wheels hovering below the heavens is an image to behold.
ju90’s photographic series Blue-Badged in Britain captures a sense of irony and humor as well as tragedy in ways that trigger both grins and grimaces.
Fang-Wei Hsu goes to town with her Flamboyance New Life, a decorated crutch assemblage fusing function and fashion. For the artist it is a process of psychological and soulful metamorphosis—one that reaches beyond the role as the recipient of help and replaces it with a deeper understanding of aesthetics and perception.
David Isakson likewise plays with function and form suggesting they are as important as irony and humor. Isakson has two assemblages—Religion Is a Crutch and TrickleDownEconomics Machine—that are both provocative and fun. As someone who lives with schizophrenia, Isakson finds utility in what other people might consider garbage and his work shares that insight and re-imaging.
Penny Richards’ Rolling Rainbow is a crocheted vision best described by the artist as a yarn-bombed wheelchair. It re-images a wheelchair into an exuberant, colorful, textural context symbolic with the experience of disability, itself.
Katherine Sherwood re-images Goya’s painting The Naked Maja with her own Maja—one in a series of large-scale paintings featuring disabled reclining female nudes that reference medical imagery and disability. Sherwood’s Maja is out to challenge canonical ideals of beauty by juxtaposing them with the artist’s own personal experience of beauty.
Opulent Mobility 2017 is a show someone might be thinking of when mentioning Disability Culture. The show is a thought-provoking exhibition that highlights the quality and diversity of artists working in the disability space—and beyond. Special acknowledgement to Teri Grossman, Mari Weiss, and McKerrin Kelly for the excellent audio description and voice-over provided with each artwork. Laura Brody—the vision behind Opulent Mobility—perhaps sums it up best in her statement, “We are all buried treasure.” The show is live and runs through March 2018 at www.opulentmobility.com.
A. Laura Brody
I re*make mobility devices and materials and give them new lives. Sometimes I staple drape.