Most people would agree that being born deaf is enough of a challenge. But Carol Fleming, one of ten artists with disabilities in the exhibition Where We Can Read the Wind at the Regional Arts Commission (RAC), also lost her father while she was in high school. “This made me comprehend how truly precious life is,” she says. “I realized it was important to make each day count.”
Fleming has worked with clay for 25 years after graduating with a Master of Fine Arts degree from Ohio University. To this day, her father’s passing has inspired her to create an ongoing series of three-dimensional ceramic columns. Those in one series are rectangular, situated outdoors, and reach up to nine feet tall; those in another are round, fit comfortably on a table, and feature horses’ proud heads. Fleming’s columns represent fellowship, bridges from the earth to the heavens, and the confidence to overcome troubles and obstacles.
The show is sponsored by VSA Missouri, a statewide organization promoting access to the arts for people with disabilities. VSA also published a 2011 anthology titled Where We Can Read the Wind which presents the work of 26 writers and artists, including the ten artists in RAC’s exhibition, who live and work all over Missouri.
In addition to Carol Fleming, artists in the show include Christa Carpenter, dave carter, Robert Cornman, Shannon Drew, Lynne Green, David Kontra, Hal Moran, Patrick Patterson, and Jon Robinson.
Christa Carpenter, who lives with cerebral palsy, inherited her mother’s artistic ability. She has exhibited her paintings at various venues around the state of Missouri.
Despite the fact that dave carter [stet] sustained significant head injuries from a car accident, he has remained a painter, printmaker, and photographer. He also owns dave’s studio—Visual Art Services, which sells artwork and supplies as well as offering art classes and commercial design/ sign production.
David Kontra describes himself as a “self-taught Bohemian expressionist artist who happens to be blind.” Since the age of nine, Kontra has dealt with retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease which left him with less than 5% vision in his left eye and only light perception in his right. Kontra relies on his memory to create art.
Because of ADD, Tourette Syndrome, and dyslexia, Hal Moran had to become a visual learner. If he could visualize something, it would be fixed in his memory. As an artist, he aims to pose questions, expose truths, and perhaps propose solutions to problems facing us today.
Patrick Patterson copes with depression, generalized anxiety, and panic disorders. His use of photography to demonstrate aspects of mental disorders can be seen in his images of dilapidated old buildings which reference the struggle between man and nature.
Robert Cornman explains, “My paintings reflect movement and energy through color.” He prefers abstract art because he believes the viewer can relate to the work and therefore become part of its solitude and tranquility.
Wentzville resident Shannon Drew participates in the Special Olympics and also enjoys dancing, bowling, and bingo. Her favorite media are acrylic paint and markers, and she hopes that her work inspires people to create art.
“After a lifetime in the creative fields of writing, stage directing and documentary video, an unexpected permanent disability challenged me to reinvent myself,” says Lynne Green. She is now a photographer and jewelry designer whose work can be found in the Missouri Botanical Garden’s gift shop and the permanent gallery at Paraquad Independent Living Center.
The abstract photographs of Jon Robinson depict white-hot light and bright colors. “It is important to me that my photographs are appealing to the whole world,” he says. “I want my art to go beyond Missouri, beyond something specific.”
Where We Can Read the Wind opens at RAC on Friday, January 11 from 5:30 – 7:30pm and is free and open to the public. The gallery talk with the curator and artists takes place on Thursday, February 14 and includes a poetry reading. The exhibition continues through March 9.