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The Art of Inclusion: "The BIG Show"
By Dan Swartz
Fort Wayne Reader
From the outside, the art world is usually seen as a bastion of liberalism that allows all expressions room for growth, and certainly can be. However, those within the art world can be all too familiar with the conservative nature of the industry. While art is, has been, and always will be produced by all humans — as we are all genetically wired to create it — the market will pull pieces and artists out of the mix which are deemed more likely to sell and have influence. For some artists, this fact and this system will stop them from finding audiences, sales, and support. Historically, few artists fall out of a social mainstream (caucasian, male, middle or upper class, without disability); when an artist outside of this stereotype comes up, the art world usually creates a bubble for them to exist within (“Outsider Art”, “Black Art”, “Feminist Art”), and even fewer artists have the chance to break out of these middle grounds and exist in the mainstream.
In Fort Wayne, because we primarily lack a true art market system, there is much more room for artists of all backgrounds and all artistic abilities to find an audience. Also, because of our community’s many organizations designed to support individuals with disabilities, and these organizations see the importance of the arts, we have a large number of disabled artists interested in pursuing an arts career. This has led to Wunderkammer Company’s current exhibition, “The BIG Show”, independently curated by Candy Pease and sponsored by the AWS Foundation.
“The BIG Show” is Northeast Indiana’s first and largest exhibition of artists with physical and intellectual disabilities, and includes dozens of artists and nearly one hundred pieces of art. These artists are mostly from the ten counties in Northeast Indiana as well as a few artists from outside the region. The artists represent organizations known to work with people with disabilities like Passages of Whitley County, as well as independent artists who heard about the exhibition and submitted work independently.
This exhibition breaks stereotypes associated with the disabilities community in that the work presented is produced by individuals with acute forms of autism, others with Downs’ Syndrome, and others without the use of their limbs, yet the quality of their work is hard to distinguish from artists without disability. Art, it would seem, is a great equalizer among people, and comes from a place outside of the realm of physical and intellectual hegemony.
As far as the artwork itself, there are a number of incredibly interesting pieces in this exhibition. Owen Sanders’ diverse set of pieces presented encompass media as widespread at small watercolor images, larger acrylic paintings, and intricate drawings made on etch a sketches! Sanders’ watercolors, “Birds” and “Peppers”, are exceptional in their soft forms, color fields, and anxious lines formed through color. Sanders’ ability to translate his artistic skills through multiple art forms is important to highlight because of his age (a teenager) and his relative lack of experience and art training. Sanders’ pieces are a perfect instance of the potential which can be found in different groups of people which may not be fit into the mainstream art world.
Adam Kline, another multifaceted artist in “The BIG Show”, has many pieces in the exhibition which random from multiple forms of abstraction, to a fascinating interest in Godzilla, the Japanese phenomenon from the decades past. Kline’s work seemed to be more educated by the art world than much of the work in the exhibition, denoting some distinct arts training. His abstraction ranged from various examples of mid-20th century abstract expressionists work like Pollack, Franz Kline, and Mark Tobey, with which “The Blues”, a piece that Kline created using his initials and other abstract marks seems to have the most in common with. The way he plays with scale and layering in his abstraction is a joy to experience. Other pieces like “Godzilla” are fun, somewhat whimsical drawings which he describes as “the many facets of Godzilla”. The humor and range of emotional in Kline’s work stands out in this exhibition giving his work more depth as well.
Katie Nasworthy, another notable artist of the exhibition included pop art portraits which are beautiful reductions of color, form, and composition to produce easily recognizable, mass appeal images which are representative of Warholian design. In “Popart2-Face” Nasworthy’s image of an individual wearing glasses fills the picture plane and is particularly interesting.
Ultimately, the depth and breadth of “The BIG Show” is a great example of the need for inclusion in the art world, not only of artists with intellectual and physical disabilities, but also artists of different ethnicity, age, culture, and more. This AWS Foundation sponsored exhibition is a great stepping stone toward producing that openness and inclusion, and hopefully we will see more exhibitions which open new communities to the new audiences.
For More Information:
“The BIG Show”
3402 Fairfield Ave, Fort Wayne 46807