Art Director’s Statement “Blindly Painting” Photos for Kickstarter Pledge Drive PR Materials

In the genre of disability pride art there is often a reclaiming of sexuality, or more properly speaking sexual power, as a reaction to desexualization of people with disabilities.  Here we see a young woman holding and using a blind person’s cane. That is, I am holding and using my own cane, while cheekily posing in my undergarments. Unembarrassed and improvised is a proper description for the tool that I hold in my hands. As proudly as I hold my body, I hold my tool. That is, I hold my cane with a paint-roller duck taped shoddily to the handle of my cane.

These images were shot for use in a design campaign for “A Somewhat Secret Place: Disability and Art,” a socially engaged exhibition and s book about artists and writers with and without disabilities, their artistic practices, their work and where the intersection with the subject of disability is present in their artistic practices and works

I feel there is much in these photos and sketches that is sincere.  Certainly in the title, “Blindly Painting.”   While it shows my sense of humor,  in this piece I mean to be quite serious. Today in the art world almost all people with disabilities in the role of artist or writer or patron are excluded and we have had to either force our way in or have a sort of  “make do” with what we are given attitude and improvise with what we have and who we are. This subjective experience may be confusing to some but I hope that seeing a faceless woman priming a wall using her cane as the poll for her paint roller might clue viewers in on what my experience has been. My legal blindness is not the problem. In fact, successfully, my blindness informs my practice, because it is a part of my life. My blindness is not something that lives outside of me but at the same time it is not the “everything” that is me.

Concept sketch for “Blindly Painting” photo shoot.

A fully sighted person with a sighted model could have easily made this image, and then maybe the implied gag would have been the focus. In this hypothetical I do still believe that the image would still function in the same way.

An additional problem that I do not attend to in these photos is the great number of unexamined works by non-disabled people having to do with disability, which includes: art created using cultural artifacts of disability, art seeking to represent a disability or person with a disability and radically political work about disability. Today there is not yet a language in the art world that’s firmly in place to talk about such work. To me this is as disturbing as the gross ignoring and exclusion of people with disabilities. I would say it was not my intention to exclude this topic, as it is an intertwined part of the event for which these images were created to promote. It simply was a matter of triggering a clean connection between the ideas of an art show and the subject of disability.

Most of the art world would have a hard time understanding an image that would encapsulate all the points I have raised here in my statement, for such issues are not often examined. I would like to know what such a hypothetical image would look like. Someday, if the work I have done is successful, I believe that such an image will exist and that it will be easily understood by the masses.

Catherine J. H. Miller

Photography by Kenneth Barton

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