Monday, October 28, 2013

In/finite Earth: A National Juried Exhibition for Emerging Artists with Disabilities, Ages 16-25

Where: Ripley Center

When: through January 2014

I had planned to see this show right after the government re-opened, but when I went over to the Ripley, it wasn't up yet.  Obviously, they hadn't been able to get it in place before the shutdown, unlike the Sackler's yoga exhibit.

No matter, it's up now, and in a new, nicer space.  This show is a display of contest-winning art work by young artists with disabilities.  The idea behind the contest is to encourage these folks as they're deciding whether to make art their life work.  Not only do the award winners get to see their work exhibited in a traveling show (so to speak), but they also get a cash prize, made available by Volkswagen, which co-sponsors the contest.  The winners are on display at the Ripley every year, and I look forward to seeing what each year will bring in the way of new artists.  My thought is that, when one of them makes it REALLY big, I'll be able to say, "Oh yes, I saw his/her work years ago..."  Dare to dream, I always say, even if it's only about the success of other people.

In years past, it's been presented in the hallway leading from the concourse to the International Gallery.  It's a small show (there are 15 winners), so it doesn't require a lot of room, but the hallway isn't the most inviting space, and I think there just isn't much foot traffic there.  Frankly, there's not a lot of foot traffic at the Ripley period, so the show needs all the help it can get.  This year, it was in the main concourse itself, which is far better.  There's much more room, so each artist's work has plenty of display area.  You don't have everything displayed practically each on top of the other, and it's easier to evaluate each artist separately.  I know that displaying paintings one on top of the other is a legitimate style, but I just don't care for it.  It just seems too higgledy-piggledy to me.  So sue me, I'm not a fan of salon display.

The one criticism I would make is that the plaques describing the work and giving some details about the artist are placed very low.  Even someone as short as I am had to stoop to read them.  I kept thinking the whole time that I wished they were higher on the wall.  Someone tall would be quite uncomfortable, I think.

The stories of the artists and how they've overcome their disabilities, or used them to express their artistic talent is quite amazing.  One person in particular, Emilie Gossiaux, was diagnosed with severe hearing loss at age 5, then lost her sight in a bicycle accident when she was in college.  I couldn't blame her if she'd just given up her artwork at that point, but she's still creating.  Her sculpture, Bird Sitting was lovely; I was shocked when I read that she is blind.  It's a small white clay piece; the wings look like hands, so it's a portrait of a bird and of a person.   It was my favorite piece in the show.

The other item that really caught my eye was one by a dyslexic artist, Madalyne Hymans.  It's about her dyslexia and people's (boneheaded) responses to it.  It's a large rectangle, with quotes from various teachers, fellow students, and others with whom she's interacted, about dyslexia and how it means she's stupid or lazy.  Her artwork clearly proves them wrong, and I wish her well in her career.  Doesn't the quote go, "Living well is the best revenge"?  I hope it proves true for her.

Verdict:  Well worth a visit, as usual with this show.  The new setting does much more justice to the artists' work than the hallway!

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