“Touch,” a piece by Redding conceptual artist Tina Casebeer, was one of 130 chosen to represent emerging and eminent artists with disabilities in the “Revealing Culture” art exhibition at the Smithsonian Institution’s International Gallery this summer. The exhibition explores how culture positions people with disabilities. The result: a multi-sensory experience, designed by the Michael Graves Design Group, showcasing installations, video, performance, painting, sculpture and printmaking.
Art by Simon McKeown
The exhibit is presented by VSA, the International Organization on Arts and Disability, and illustrates how innovation often comes from the artists’ experiences of differences. There are tactile pieces to touch, descriptions to hear and environments to experience, including a classroom, waiting room and medical lab.
Art by Emmet Estrada
VSA, an affiliate of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, was founded 35 years ago by Ambassador Jean Kennedy Smith to provide arts and education opportunities for people with disabilities. Once known by the acronym for “Very Special Arts,” the organization has shed that outdated language from its name and is now known simply as VSA, its Web site explains.
VSA has 52 international affiliates and a network of nationwide affiliates, serving seven million people of all ages and abilities annually. “Revealing Culture” is part of the 2010 International VSA Festival, a gathering of artists, educators, researchers and policy makers, the largest arts event featuring artists with disabilities in Washington D.C.
“Wearing Away the Past” by Tina Casebeer – Pigment Prints on Sandpaper
Tina’s work was chosen from 400 submissions by a distinguished panel of jurors: Leanne Mella, consulting curator, Laurel Reuter, Director of the North Dakota Museum of Art, and Brandon Brame Fortune, curator in the Department of Painting and Sculpture at the National Portrait Gallery.
Tina Casebeer (r) “Attached Images” performance piece – handing memories as “presents,” Barcelona
Acceptance to Revealing Culture was “a big confidence boost” for Tina at a time when she was doubting herself as an artist. “I freaked out,” she admits. “Patti LaBelle is performing in the opening ceremonies and I’m showing with Chihuly!”
“Touch” by Tina Casebeer
Her piece, “Touch,” a pair of stiffened lace gloves, is a haunting, suspended presence, with no wearer. The piece touches on Tina’s views of women’s roles, society’s lingering views about chastity and purity and barriers that keep us from interacting, or as she says, “getting dirty with the world.” “Touch” has also become a segue for her new work confronting some of the “quirks” of religious tradition and how they affect us in very real ways.
I talked to Tina about her work, the show, and the most important question ….
Tell us about your disability and how it has affected what you create.
I have had chronic migraines since I was 7 years old. The biggest impact of the migraines is that they steal time; half days, full days. It makes it pretty hard to get work done. However, I don’t consider myself a “disabled artist,” as I don’t consider myself a “feminist artist” because I am female.
Who are some major influences?
I feel like I haven’t found one artist that I heavily identify with, or predominately affects my work. Because I glean bits of inspiration from individual artworks, my work has become an aggregate of many ideas & styles. I have been deeply impacted by Rirkrit Tiravanija‘s community performances, Gillian Wearing‘s inquiry into humanity and Robert Smithson‘s erudite, intellectual work. I am also constantly flabbergasted by Do-Ho-Suh‘s work; he balances the deeply conceptual with effervescent imagery.
Tell us about the piece that wasn’t juried into the show.
The other work I submitted was a performance executed in Barcelona, Spain. I typed and packaged memories as presents, in envelopes, and then handed them out on the main street in Barcelona, Las Ramblas. The piece asks if you can literally give away a memory, to the extent of the owner no longer having it.
Most importantly, what are you wearing to the opening?
Fantastic question! I’m wearing a fabulous dress from Anthropologie, it has a pseudo jungle leaves and snakeskin pattern, with a tulip skirt. Very snazzy, indeed.
What: Revealing Culture: A Contemporary Art Exhibition on Disability
When: June 8 to August 29, 2010
Where: Smithsonian Institution’s International Gallery, Washington D.C.
Adam Mankoski is a recent North State transplant who feels completely at home here. He enjoys experiencing and writing about the people, places and things that embody the free spirit of the State of Jefferson. He and his partner own HawkMan Studios and are the creators of Redding’s 2nd Saturday ArtHop. Email your North State news and events to firstname.lastname@example.org.