The art of disability culture: Dispelling myths, dissolving barriers, and disrupting prejudice

BY TERRY BAUM: For Complete Post, click here…

The title of the current exhibit at the Palo Alto Art Center speaks of “disrupting prejudices,” and I’ll tell you my prejudices were not just disrupted but blown to pieces right away when I saw the portraits above painted by Bill Bruckner. I mean, I expected to be moved, to feel good that I had gone out of my way to support people less fortunate than me. I did not expect to see ART with a capital “A.” I mean just plain old interesting beautiful art. I did not expect the quality of the work.

And then this statement from Bruckner’s website really fried my brain circuits:

  • “As a person with a lifelong visible disability, I have been acutely aware of the patronizing, objectifying ways in which we are often depicted in the arts. Over the past 25 years, I have been creating a series of portraits of my friends who have disabilities. Because I believe that our lives are neither pitiable nor inspiring, my intent has been to convey images of our ordinary dignity, humanity, and self-respect. I hope you will feel that the people in these portraits are gazing at you with as much curiosity and interest as you may have about them.”

“Neither pitiable nor inspiring….” Damn! Bruckner’s making me face that even being inspired by people with disabilities is a way of seeing them as “other.” He refuses to be used as an inspiration! I don’t know if I can handle that, even though I can see that it is a kind of use.

When we entered the gallery, the first thing we encountered was not Bruckner’s work but this:

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