I decided to do something this fall for myself, out of peace and love. The intent is to create a collection of small paintings on paper and panels, honestly a challenging task living with disability. A huge amount of time is dedicated to creating one small painting, working for only a few minutes a day (on a good day), a few months time is needed just to amass a very small body of work both in size and quantity. A task that presents boundaries for an artist living with disability in comparison to an able bodied artist, perhaps things most people haven’t thought about.
In this blog, I will share with you a dialogue of the disabled artists day while keeping the peace in my body. The unthinkable challenges faced when creating art until one experiences them. As well as the love put into each brushstroke thus filling my heart with double the love and sharing that love with others. And finally, a huge barrier that is paramount, that is finding venues to have our art shown to the public and thus sharing my love with others.
A day for me is full of choices but truthfully they are sacrifices and on a low day my body simply chooses for me. Each day I wake up and ask my body what it feels like and how can I make it peaceful and love filled. It takes a minimum of two hours each morning for my body to begin functioning and to be of ability to begin my day, which means I rarely get to my studio in the morning. I also require more sleep than the able bodied to function in a minimal fashion, causing a deficit each day from the get go. And finally I need to be in bed early each night before my energy drops and dips into my reserves. It is a game of strategy like Battleship, with my energy being my ship and trying to stay afloat each and every day.
There are many sacrifices I make in a day just to have energy to accomplish a short painting session of a few minutes, accompanied by many minutes of rest. Sacrifices an abled bodied person would never consider, like showering or washing my hair. Wearing painting clothes until bed because I am not able to put energy into an extra clothing change. Sacrificing watching a film in our home theatre in the basement because I don’t have enough energy to get downstairs and then back upstairs at the end of the night. All daily household chores are done by my husband who is my full time caregiver, as I no longer have the ability to clean, cook, walk the dogs, do laundry, change bedding and the list goes on and on.
My art is my connection with the world. Living housebound reminds me of the saying, ‘Out of sight, out of mind’. In my case it means loosing friendships and family as you are no longer able to attend functions with others. Eventually, you get dropped by everyone and are left in isolation. This is where art steps in to save the day like a superhero with the magical power of peace and love. My paintings have become my self expression with others, my paintings can travel around the city for me and connect with the art patron. This is how I can be part of my city from my home. My paintings create peace in my days and are filled with love, I often say that each painting has a touch of happiness.
Social media of late has become a thorn in the artists side, especially those with disability like myself. With constant algorithm changes, the platforms make it hard for us to be seen. Unless you pay to advertise and pay alot which I simply cannot do. This is a venue for connection with others through my art, and for me my only socialization. The constant changes mean more time and energy devoted to these platforms, something the disabled like myself don’t have. The truth is that with constant push for promoting and video content, people with disability can’t keep up or dedicate the energy to elusive tasks that don’t provide concrete result in communication. It simply has become a drain on my energy and this a waste of my time. Frankly disturbs my peace.
I have had to limit my time on these platforms to 3 times a week as a result to keep my energy for to my painting. These were once places where one could connect with others but have turned into something else altogether. Sadly the alternatives for communication such as a website and email have been squashed out by social media. Such modes of communication are friendly to those with disability. However, they are still ways I choose communicate and meet the needs of my abilities. My website is always up to date, user friendly and filled with my paintings. This is how I share my art with others, communicate news and exhibits and talk with art patrons and collectors.
Getting back to my paintings, once I do establish a collection of small paintings the task at hand is how to have my work seen by eyeballs. I have already explained challenges via social media. You all know by now I live a housebound lifestyle. There are some galleries such as The Blue Crow Gallery and ArtQuarters Gallery that have artists small works on exhibit, which I am forever grateful. However, many galleries require much larger paintings to sell to their art collectors, desire solo show commitments and have a demand for frequent large works to sell.
The art fair scene is alive in Toronto, however it requires leaving my housebound lifestyle, carting and hanging paintings, walking distances and looking over a booth for several days and evenings. All of which is absolutely unattainable for a person like myself and others living with disability, and the barriers amass. Art fairs require the need for a quick production as well as a mass of paintings to sell at a multiple of art fairs at affordable prices. I quickly am running out of options to share my paintings with the public, as one can easily see. Being a disabled artist has barriers towards inclusion in the arts community.
In fact, I had to talk a step back when I started to get overwhelmed while researching artist participation in fairs. The amount of energy required to do the shear amount of paintings in a short time frame for multiple shows is in another realm beyond my abilities. In order to remain positive I had to step aback to focusing on myself, creating paintings and finding joy and satisfaction in my process. With a deep breath back into the peace and love.
The pandemic has made effective change to the world of art, change that benefits those of us living with disability. For example, online art talks, shows, sales etc. have become a thing. What remains to be seen is, will this be sustained and a change that as a disabled artist I can rely on or will galleries revert back to when they didn’t include this new facet ?Time will tell but does need to be answered should I begin with online art venues. The disabled and often artists live below the poverty line without livable wages. To pay out for participation will need to guarantee results in sales.
With so much uncertainty I decided to simply create and amass work for myself this fall, to achieve accomplishment and give my days purpose. The universe will take care of everything else. As I spend minutes in my studio I will simply enjoy the present and the happiness painting brings to my life. In the world today I believe in and live by peace and love. Peace and love guide my days, whenever I get off my step I come back to this. Keeping the peace in my body and love in my heart, what comes will be. I can always listen to my John Lennon album’s to get me back on track and to following my purpose. Keep checking in to see what the universe, peace and love brings my way.
Blog no. 18