Chicago

Since 2014, Disparate Minds has been an itinerant endeavor which initially began through an extended road trip to visit progressive art studios across the country. Advancing this project in Chicago begins with the understanding that there’s something radical and crucially important happening in these studios which transcends art and disability

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Hugo Rocha

Based in suburban LA, Hugo Rocha creates uncanny works demonstrating his particular sense of drama and ongoing interest in telenovelas, re-imagining still images from favorite episodes in dynamic and engaging ways. Rocha’s fascinations are translated into portraits of cartoonish characters within elaborate, eerily staged interiors and landscapes.

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Kerry Damianakes

Over the past 35 years, Oakland-based artist Kerry Damianakes has amassed an extensive body of unconventional and playful works directly informed by her desire to reproduce the everyday. Damianakes remains primarily committed to an ongoing series of velvety oil pastel drawings - faithful tributes to foods that alternately elicit a state of well-being or decadence.

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Raquel Albarran: Amputation Farm

A robust visual language slowly unfurls across Albarran’s supersaturated drawings, her personal preoccupations translated here through densely applied colored pencil marks. Endearing yet grotesque tableaux are populated by impossible pregnancies, deconstructed cheeseburgers, disarticulated jaws, splayed toes and fingers, disembodied eyeballs, knobby phalluses, and prolapsed organs.

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Ernie Titus

Titus’ work is divergent from traditional concepts of drawing in that the element of mask-making is central to his execution. Rather than creating sculptural paper masks, Titus instead uses the process and materials of drawing to engage the paper, resulting in a two-dimensional object with a compelling language of drawing - agile lines articulated in his distinct hand…

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Michael Pellew: #1 Under Control World Tour

#1 Under Control World Tour featured ten drawings and four paintings by the prolific Brooklyn based artist in Western Exhibitions’ intimate back gallery. The tight installation felt appropriate for Pellew’s populous works; as usual the drawings were teeming with congregations of favorite music and TV icons, the occasional friend in real life, and fantastic alternate identities…

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Visual Oasis: Works from Creative Growth

We were recently commissioned by the Capital City Arts Initiative to write the following exhibition essay for Visual Oasis: Works from Creative Growth. Visual Oasis brings together a diverse selection of works by Creative Growth artists employing various approaches to drawing, painting, and fiber art at CCAI’s Courthouse Gallery…

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Holiday Giving

Evelyn Reyes, Carrots (Green), 2006, oil pastel on paper, image courtesy Creativity Explored

If you participate in donating to important causes this holiday season, we extend our annual reminder to keep your local progressive art studio in mind. Studios facilitating the creative practices of fantastic artists that we discuss depend on the support of their local communities in the form of both patronage and charitable giving. These invaluable programs depend largely on Medicaid funding and now more than ever rely directly on you as continued government support is increasingly uncertain.

Of course these studios are also places to find incredible holiday gifts. Visiting and collecting works of art that you love to live with is a powerful way to integrate disability (disparate thinking) into your life in a personal and authentic way. If there’s a progressive art studio in your community, you'll almost certainly find some of the most original and remarkably affordable local art is being created there. Alternatively, you can now purchase many artists’ work online, such as Sarah Malpass at NIAD, Evelyn Reyes at Creativity Explored, or Larry Pearsall of DAC on Amazon. Please refer to our side-bar directory for all studio locations and websites.

If you’re interested in supporting larger organizations that advocate for disability rights on a national scale, this year we offer the following two recommendations:

ADAPT

ADAPT has always been at the forefront of the fight for disability rights even before the ADA. These heroes have been putting their lives and liberty on the line all year to defend Medicaid, crowding the halls of Congress, crashing meetings, and staging sit-ins at the offices of our political leaders - getting arrested and accruing legal fees in the process. ADAPT is still a relatively small organization, but these individuals saved America this year and they need your support.

ADAPT protester Lonnie Smith arrested at a sit-in at Denver US Senator Cory Gardner's office opposing GOP health care bill cuts to Medicaid (Jon Leyba/The Denver Post via AP)

The ACLU

The ACLU, co-founded by Helen Keller, has always understood disability rights in their most progressive form to be essential civil rights. They have been providing the legal muscle behind this movement at crucial moments - some you may have heard of and others you may not.  When the state of Oklahoma sent letters to Medicaid recipients in early November indicating their home care services would be terminated at the end of the month, an ACLU lawsuit sent the state legislature back to work.

Curtis Davis

Cincinnati-based artist Curtis Davis blurs the boundaries between painting and sculpture, alternating between totemic mixed-media assemblages and large scale panels. Davis’ mysterious abstractions conjure various interpretations, yet curious elements ground the viewer...

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Helen Rae at White Columns

Helen Rae, one of the progressive art studio movement's rising stars, currently has recent work on view at White Columns in NYC, marking her first east coast solo exhibition. Rae is quickly emerging as an important figure in this movement; her work is striking, wildly popular, and at 78 years old, her practice is one of great dynamism and momentum. 

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Larry Pearsall, David Lynch, and the Process of Storytelling

Larry Pearsall is a Los Angeles-based artist who has created an extensive, focused body of work at ECF’s downtown studio for over a decade. Pearsall's paintings have a masterful quality, which can be difficult to access only because of their strangeness and ambiguity; the more his epic narrative is given weight or trusted, the more unsettling it becomes...

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Holiday Giving - Supporting Disability Rights

   

William Britt, Untitled, oil on board, 21.4" x 27.4", 2010, courtesy Pure Vision Arts

Since our recent post-election essay regarding art and disability advocacy, we've received several inquiries about supporting disability rights and national organizations that are working for this cause.   

First and foremost, your local progressive art studio is a great place to start; the progressive art studios listed in our directory are primarily small non-profits that depend on the support of their local community to exist. Donating directly to these organizations, attending exhibitions, and buying artwork are great ways to support these studios and this important work. Going to these programs with discerning criticism, and finding works of art that you love to collect and live with is a powerful way to integrate disability (disparate thinking) into your life in a manner that’s personal and authentic. If there’s a progressive art studio in your community, you will almost certainly find that some of the most original and authentic art being made locally is being created in that studio and is remarkably affordable.

Apart from progressive art studios, there are many organizations throughout the country that provide services, research and education, or public policy advocacy. It's often difficult to differentiate between which organizations to endorse and support, because they sometimes espouse regressive ideas and practices. Philosophically, there are many areas where advocates are far from a consensus, and worse, there are non-profits that are actually exploitative; researching an organization's mission and history beforehand is vital. 

Two important measures of the quality of a disability service or advocacy organization are:

  1. How prominently disabled individuals, their ideas, and voices are included in the organization's composition, message, and presentation
  2. How prominently the organization focuses on inclusion, acceptance, and support services, as opposed to prevention, intervention, or “cures” 

Andrew Hostick, A Million Single Moments, colored pencil on mat board, 14" x 11", 2013, image courtesy Visionaries + Voices

Our recommendation on a national scale is to direct your support to an agency advocating for disabled people that is a paragon of these principles and an ideal example of what a disability advocacy effort should embody: the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

Although ASAN’s foundation is specific to Autism, they’re the most progressive disability rights agency of their type and scale in the country that we’re aware of - by and for disabled people, an essential principle expressed in their slogan “nothing about us without us.” Co-founded by dedicated advocate Ari Ne’eman, it’s a fantastic resource for detailed information and news regarding disability advocacy. Donations to ASAN will support public policy advocacy, and disability advocacy education that you can trust to serve the needs of the disabled. 


“ASAN advocates specific policy positions on issues of importance to Autistic people and others with disabilities. In so doing, we seek to ensure the meaningful involvement of Autistic individuals in making policy at all levels, to promote a culture of inclusion and respect for all, to enforce the rights of Autistic people to equal opportunity at school and at work, and to improve funding for community services and supports along with research into how they can best be provided.”

 

Another great project to support is the Disbability Visability Project:

Whereas ASAN focuses on affecting policy, the Disability Visibility Project focuses on activism, media, and affecting culture by publishing stories and organizing conversations - a fierce and ambitious effort to place disability voices at the forefront. Founder Alice Wong explains:

A Conversation with Sophia Cosmadopoulos

Cosmadopoulos is currently a coordinator and facilitator at LAND Studio and Gallery, a progressive art studio provided by the League Education & Treatment Center in DUMBO, Brooklyn. Her valuable perspective is also informed by an uncommonly dynamic career in this field...

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