There have been very few issues of art magazines devoted to disability. There ought to be more. As Art in America associate editor Emily Watlington, who took the lead on this issue, writes in her essay “Our Work Is Working,” disabled artists have been crucial to progress in disability justice and the art world in general, whether through storytelling, empathy-building, or outright activism. These artists place disability where it belongs: at the heart of creativity itself.
In the article “Impairment as Impetus,” four writers offer insights on revelatory artworks: danilo machado writes of a Darrel Ellis drawing from 1992, made as the artist was dying of AIDS, a viewer might lend it “a funerary interpretation.” But, machado wonders, what if we saw it instead as an image of “rest”? “After a life of so much looking, perhaps Ellis was claiming the importance of repose.”
Elsewhere in the issue, Aimi Hamraie traces the relationship between disability and design from the 1970s to the present, describing disability communities as “places where design expertise exists and where accessibility is aesthetic and experiential, not just a tool for conforming to the norm.” Elizabeth Guffey reaches further into the past, looking at the complex relationship between Impressionism and disability, with a focus on what it meant for critics to peg Impressionist painters as visually and otherwise impaired.
In a roundtable, a group of blind and low-vision artists confronts ongoing ableism and the deficiencies of Audio Description, while talking about blindness as more a generative force than an obstacle to overcome. (You will want to frame the print that one of them, Emilie L. Gossiaux, created for this issue.) For the artists involved, making visual art is a decidedly political act. And, just as important, it sets an example for others.
In this issue you’ll also learn that disability-design advocate Liz Jackson once claimed that “we [disabled people] are the original lifehackers,” and that artist Park McArthur considers unexpected encounters with the works of disabled artists “affirmation[s] that our people are everywhere.” We all need to pay more attention.
—Sarah Douglas, Editor in Chief
NEW TALENT: SRIJON CHOWDHURY
by Bean Gilsdorf
The Portland painter frequently quotes his own work, creating a constantly evolving retrospective.
THE EXCHANGE: SCIENCE FICTIONS
by American Artist with Lou Cornum
An artist and a sci-fi scholar share their esteem for novelist Octavia Butler, who extrapolated future worlds from troubled times.
HARD TRUTHS: MIC DROP
by Chen & Lampert
Artist-curators Howie Chen and Andrew Lampert offer advice on karaoke and other forms of art world hobnobbing.
CRITICAL EYE: SACRED SPACE
by Shannon Mattern
At once utopian and pragmatic, the Shakers valued social order, efficient design, and responsible compromise.
PROFILE: JULIE SPEED
by Christopher Blay
Marfa-based painter produces wry images of human foibles and offenses.
Jackson Arn on T.J. Clark’s If These Apples Should Fall: Cézanne and the Present.
OUR WORK IS WORKING
by Emily Watlington
The key to American disability justice is leadership by the disabled
A 40-year timeline of disability art and moments that make up a movement.
IMPAIRMENT AS IMPETUS
by Sara Hendren, danilo machado, Jasbir K. Puar, and Emily Watlington
Writers analyze the means and motives behind five disability-related artworks.
WAYS OF NOT-SEEING
Moderated by Andrew Leland
Blind and low vision artists Rodney Evans, Kayla Hamilton, Emilie L. Gossiaux, and Bojana Coklyat discuss their practices, followed by a pull-out print by Gossiaux.
The artist reflects on her rapport with her guide dog and techniques for drawing from memory and feel.
THE “MALADY” OF IMPRESSIONISM
by Elizabeth Guffey
The Impressionist vision, so beloved today, was once considered defective in every sense.
WHY BE NORMAL?
by Aimi Hamraie
Disability justice and disability design are inseparable, and both should prioritize the user’s experience.
“52 Artists: A Feminist Milestone”
Aldrich Contemporary Art Museum, Ridgefield, Connecticut
FRONT International 2022
Multiple venues, Cleveland
Amant, New York
William E. Jones
David Kordansky, New York
Regen Projects, Los Angeles
Bel Ami, Los Angeles
Musée des Beaux-Arts de Bordeaux
Thomas Dane Gallery, London
Ahmet Doğu İpek