Art Needs Respect
view by Kathy DelloStritto
I really have no problem
with the BVM theme
of the Guadalupe show at the Ice House or
the unbridled and unedited entrants. The community is participating,
etc., etc., etc.
What does bother me is that
we can't review it critically without being considered politically
incorrect or even racist. What enrages me is that this political
bubble suffocates art.
The Ice House is one of
the City of Dallas venues that reflect the culture of their
location. It's not unlike other venues around town, private
and public, that are associated by intent or by habit with
visual art made by and seen by a particular age, culture,
ethnic or religious group. Think Ice House, The Biblical
South Dallas Cultural Center.
Unfortunately, this often
means that any
criticism of the art shown there can be deflected — or
quashed — by
the Politically Correct Defense.
Criticism equals Discrimination, even Racism, and therefore,
will not be heard.
over ears, hum John Phillip Soussa loudly.
Unfair for me,
a White North Dallas Middle Aged Episcopalian Woman,
to criticize the quality
of the art at those places, right? I could never be considered
for a ethnically-based Dallas Contemporary Mosaics Show.
Although in some sectors just being a Woman is
enough to qualify me
as a Minority. But I digress.
visit to Oak Cliff's Ice House was the stuff of
nightmares for me.
As a teacher I want all
artists encouraged and supported to develop their creativity
But I also want Art to be Respected. I want it to grow and evolve. I want it to challenge
and excite and touch the viewers. I want it to challenge,
prod, and push the artists to their full potential.
Does cloaking art and artists
and art venues in narrow cultural, or racial or religious
identities give those artists previously unrealized voices
and opportunities? Or
does it restrict the art?
restrict the art sometimes to the point of suffocation? No one
can disagree or challenge. The artists can not feed off
ideas and visual stimula that are different. And the ethnic,
religious identity of the venue dictates and restricts
the art produced and shown there.
else does this bother me so much?
Arts and I have been flirting with each other for
about two years now. VSA Arts and Art Without Walls are
developed to represent artists with disabilites.
am an artist, and I am
multiply disabled. And that makes me a member of one
of the afore
mentioned ethnic, religious, cultural groups, if you
count discrimination, exclusion and segregation as prerequisites
If losing my left arm in
a chilhood accident wasn't enough, then the severe Scoliosis
and the accompanying huge Milwaukee back brace that I had
wear throughout my adolescense, and the daily pain I have
had for 50 years, guarantees me a spot on the front row.
I've lost jobs or had to
defend my talents and abilities needlessly. I have endured
stares and thoughtless remarks made about me, in my presence
as if I had lost my hearing too. And I have been assaulted
by endless stupid questions.
I can't grow another arm — so I can be just like
you. But I can cut off one of your arms, so you can be
So when the VSA suggested
that I apply to be an Artist in Residence in Wasington,
DC, I looked into it. And it became apparent very quickly
I was NOT VSA material.
First of all, I don't do
art about my disability.
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And secondly I had to produce
and promote a local show of disabled artists. This was
to prove that I do Good Lady
volunteer work with my own kind. Anyone who
knows me well knows that I have always done volunteer work
for the arts,
my sons' schools, my church, The SPCA, DallasArtsRevue
But that does not count
I dutifully looked at the
web site of the Texas VSA chapter and talked to its director.
I looked at the art featured on the web site. And that's
when my Artist In Residency evaporated.
One Disabled Artist was
a brilliant portrait and figure painter. There were several
who do art with wheelchairs. Literally. They
The next artist showed Inspirationals for The Disabled — Bible
verses printed around schmaltzy photos.
There was no evidence that
the photos were original. Then there is the artist known
as Joni who is quadriplegic and has a Christian ministry
gets wheelchairs for needy kids.
How can I fault her? Because
she has spent more of her creative energy promoting herself
as a Mouth Painter than she has spent growing and evolving
as an artist.
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Normal public loves a Carnival Side Show.
As much as you don't want to admit it, you have to
acknowledge that slavery for Blacks, Asian and Latinos,
freak shows for the physically disabled were accepted
career paths in the not so distant past.
Could I get away with setting
perameters for art to be shown that would probably exclude
some of these artists? Would I be discriminating in the
educational, aesthetic sense? Or would I be discriminating
in the exclusionary
My point here is that I don't paint my disability. I
paint my feelings,
usually unconsciously -- my perceptions, my experiences
and my imagination.
I feed off the world around me. The whole world. In
his own way so does the portrait figure painter.
And I don't usually advertise
my disabilities, because I want people to know ME and
see My Art instead of only seeing The One Armed Huntchback
her One Armed Huntched Back Art.
If I produced a show, I
wanted to show good art by artists who just happen to be
This would go miles to break the stereotype that people
with disabilities are limited. And it would show a great
for Art and Artists.
So I want Art Centers to
show good art by artists who just happen to be from certain
and cultural and religious heritages. I want them to
inspire and challenge and motivate each other.
I want their creativity
to grow and evolve to its fullest potential. I
want their Art to be respected.
I want them to be respected as Artists, not segregated
by limiting stereotypes.