The Intersection of Art and Disability

I struggle every time I utilize social media as an artist, with the “About Me” section.

Do I put that I am disabled? Am I a disabled artist? Or am I an artist who happens to be disabled? Should anyone care that I am disabled? Does it even factor into my art? And on and on and on.

The thing I am starting to realize is that my disability influences every minuate of my art. From deciding not to add something because it will hurt too much, to how big I work. I was in art classes for two years from 2012-2014 and over and over again I was told WORK BIG! By the second year my teachers where accommodating the fact that I can’t work big, but the pressure to do so was intense.

I watched all my classmates go off to higher educations in art and I couldn’t go. The days would be too grueling and I could barely juggle a family, 4 hours a day on my course and my illnesses.

I got through not being able to continue my studies because of this wonderful thing called the internet 🙂 So much information and knowledge is available and free. I am blessed with the gift of being able to teach myself new things, and I just keep going and making and creating.

Being disabled informs all of that though. It dictates how long I work, how big I work, how often I can work, if I can even do certain techniques, styles, etc. It even causes me to work faster because I never know when I won’t be able to work. I rush to finish things out of fear I won’t be able to.

When I lost my job in 2010 because I was becoming sicker and sicker, I was finally able to devote what little energy I had to creating. When I started getting pain medication to manage my pain levels I was even able to go to art courses, which to me was like winning the lotto. Fellow students whinged about the work load and the commitment and I was just utterly thrilled on a day to day basis to BE there.

I would do anything to keep being challenged and pushed via an art education. Going to the Crawford was my dream since I was 18 and well before I ever glimpsed I would become disabled. My genetic incurable disease and the symptoms and syndromes it causes both gave me art and stole it from me. I wasn’t able to work, so I could create, but I am constantly limited by the limits of my body. Its frustrating, to say the very least.

I have progressed as an artist since I went back to it in 2007. I would say a lot, actually. There is so much I want to try and learn and experience as an artist and yet I am constantly reigned in by my disability. People often say “you are not your disability”. No, but my whole life is informed by my disability, and there is no cure for what I have.

I would love to send out packages to galleries showcasing my work and see if they will show my stuff. I know how to do it all. I hold back because can I get there? Will I be too sick to show up when they show my work? Can I stand long enough at an opening to be present when my show opens? Can I bring my wheelchair? Is the place accessible? Will they be patient with me when I am in a tail spin of pain and cannot be as professional, organized and articulate as I normally am? Will clients fire me from commissions if I can’t work fast enough for them? Will they tell everyone I was a flake and my reputation become terrible?

Will the art world “put up with me” and my limitations and needs?

It’s hard to imagine it will, when it seems so fast paced and intense. It’s hard to imagine, in a world that is so inaccessible so often, that there is space for me as an artist who is disabled.

So after trying to hide it all for years, I am including it on all my social media and my website. People need to know. People who love my work need to know that I would LOVE to create for them. I will do it as and when I can, and pour myself into it. I am housed in a very broken and unpredictable body and I need them to understand there’s limits. I am incredibly clever and can work around a lot of things, but patience please.

I still want to keep going with my art education. My big goal is to save up and get a textiles degree long distance. It’s the only course I have found that will let me work at my own pace, and luckily for me, it looks like an awesome course.

In the meantime I am about to go back to the last course I finished and do it again, but not for qualifications, but to keep me sane. To keep me going. To do the thing that gives me life and have access to facilities so I can play with clay and explore painting and talk to other people who love art again. Like the header on this page says – art is the reason I get up in the morning.

I’ve almost decided not to go four times already because I have always been “all or nothing” in life. If I can’t go every day, have perfect attendance and do every assignment to perfection, then what’s the point?! My husband patiently, repeatedly, gently, lovingly sits me down over and over again and reminds me if I got two days a week, and miss half the assignments, I will still be making art. I will still be doing what I love. I will be in a TON of pain, but I will be in a ton of pain ANYWAY, and at least this way I get to make.

So I am going to try. And it’s time to stop pretending I am not disabled by chronic, unending pain.

Here goes 🙂
(I will instagram the shit out of it, so follow along if you’re interested ^_^ )

Oh! And my theme is going to be Mushrooms!

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