With the digital age in full swing and gifs becoming the preferred method of communication, one might be tempted to claim that two-dimensional, static art is dead. In fact, ten years ago, a major city’s art institute (museum and school) held public lectures bemoaning the impending demise of visual arts as we have defined them for thousands of years. They looked into the future and fretted over the loss of public interest in and appreciation of paintings, drawings, etchings, etc. Their conclusion was computers made traditional methods obsolete and archaic.
With the passing of time, I think their claim of doom was right and wrong. Yes, there is a dramatic shift from the static to the dynamic when personal communication is the purpose. Nevertheless, from my personal experience, art classes and workshops are as busy as ever. Moreover, I just read an article where a medical school is incorporating art classes in their training of doctors. What? Yep. (Harvard School of Medicine Joins Growing Trend of Arts Education) Why? “(T)o improve (the medical students) skills at observation and empathy.” On the flip side, rehabilitation hospitals are expanding or adding art therapy to aid patients to “further promote successful rehabilitation.” (http://mageerehab.org/about-us/care-team/art-therapy/)
In the preliterate eras, art was the means by which information was shared within the community. Interestingly, not only did icons, motifs, paintings, and drawings serve functional purposes but some were for aesthetic reasons only. Until the culture developed writing or other forms of record-keeping, preliterate art was the only method of nonverbal communication. “(T)here is evidence of artistic activity dating as far back as 500,000 years ago.” ( Shell Art Made Before Humans Evolved)
When I picked up a paintbrush for the first time, I thought it was only for the hobby. There was no way for me to anticipate the life-affirming experiences in store. Living with a chronic illness is a complex existence. Words cannot convey the myriad of my emotions that are an intimate part each day. We’ve heard the adage, a painting tells a thousand words – well, it’s true. When I paint, I am telling a story, an emotion. You, as the viewer, hear the story or emotion, but it is your story, your emotion.
Recently, someone posted the following observation regarding my painting, Requiem: The artistic imagery is so perfect that it “caused a physical reaction in me – my heart to ache. They are the truth, for me, and I feel that I know them personally. Rose has reached into my soul and exposed me. I am amazed, and horrified, that Requiem and I have intimate knowledge of this truth.”
Thus, I claim that art is not dead; it is more alive than ever. Art is seeping into new areas, finding its way into the heart of individuals. Never before has it been more obvious that art has a voice. In fact, often the visual arts — with its silent but powerful language — have the capacity to transfer thoughts, feelings, emotions without a word being uttered. This communication from one person to another continues long after the artist is gone. The silent voice will never be stilled; it forever speaks to the viewer whether it be in a museum, on a wall, or on a refrigerator.
It was one of those glorious Sunday afternoons. The sun taking no time to make known its ability to enforce the dress code of the day, and I was right there along with the rest of the crowd with my hat, sun screen, and umbrella.
I was at a family gathering. Didn’t matter that it was a baseball game. Yes, I am one of those people who doesn’t really care for baseball. I know, I know, it’s America’s favorite pastime. Or, so I’ve heard all of my life. Nevertheless, even though I am a born and bred American, it is not my favorite. Honestly, it would never even appear on any things-to-do list of mine.
Yet, there I was with the gang watching baseball. And, I wasn’t only sitting there passing time until it was over. Nope. I was yelling and whooping. Yes, I had become a fan in a few short moments. Mimicking the guy behind me, I called out such terms as, “Good eye.” (Huh? Good eye?) What happened? My grandson was playing.
Funny how one’s perspective can change with the slightest alteration in circumstances. It happens all the time. We just don’t notice until something unique comes along – such as my grandson being part of a baseball team. Surely changed my perspective on baseball. (I am even planning on traveling three hours each way just to watch him play in another game tomorrow.)
There is another area where my perspective has changed, also. It is the number of invisible fences that the mobility-challenged face every day, every where.
For example, the playoff park where my grandson was playing, on that beautiful, summer day, was designed with thoughtful consideration of handicapped people. The bleachers had sections carved out for wheelchairs; there was an additional restroom large enough for a wheelchair; plenty of handicap parking spaces; and expansive, concrete sidewalks. All this fabulous planning and accommodation helped make my day more enjoyable.
However, challenges still needed to be faced. Even though the bleacher stands sat on a concrete pad, the sidewalk ended 25 feet short of the stands. In between? A sea of rough, uneven gravel. To make matters worse, on one side were the bleacher stands and on the other side were the restrooms, food stand, and parking lot. Having the wheels of an electric wheelchair (550 pounds unoccupied) spin in gravel is akin to a car stuck in the snow. I can’t even imagine how difficult it would be for someone using a walker.
The clincher (it’s a baseball term, right?) came at the end of the game when the team met for the coach’s pep talk (or whatever it is they say at the end of a game). It is that time when praises are given and awards are handed out. Only, the dugout was another sea of gravel away.
So, there we sat, my grandson’s paternal grandfather and I (his maternal grandmother), watching everyone else gather together as we were left behind another invisible fence.
Recently, I was forced into the noisy and congested world typical of American life. Yep. I had to go shopping.
It all started the moment I tried to squirt a little bit more of the most basic of all oil paints, Titanium White, onto my palette. With a PFFTHHPPPPP the remaining paint plopped out. Reaching for my backup tube, I found. . . nothing. Yep. That tube of Titanium White stuck in the back of the rack? It wasn’t white. It was Ultramarine Blue.
What? Impossible! Agghh! Okay, don’t panic. Just get some delivered.
Normally I can accomplish this task with a few clicks and, violá, the deed is done. Not this time.
Having pulled out my handy, lightweight laptop computer, I searched for a site that would deliver some paint within a few days. (Another experience of the typical American life.) However, with a click-click here and a click-click there, I discovered that it would take, drum roll – please, two weeks for the paint to arrive.
Oh, phooey, ptooey. I have to go to the store.
So, off I went to one of those big box stores that sell home goods, craft items, and art supplies. I live at least an hour away from any major city. Yet, I only had to travel 15 miles to buy my oil paint. (Another one of those pretty awesome miracles of the ordinary American life.)
As I rolled into the store, my eye noticed a sign for sale, “Be Original, Not Ordinary.” Huh? What’s wrong with ordinary?
Image this: A child who has never had the opportunity to be completely immersed in what would be considered a typical summer activity. Why? Because s/he is confined to a wheelchair or has autism or a brain injury.
I guess you don’t have to imagine it, do it? With all the ADA-compliance modifications that have already been made – and they are wonderful, the world is still largely out of reach for anyone with special needs.
There have been times when I have cried because I was sidelined because of a physical barrier. And, if I cried, I can only imagine how often a child has wept because s/he was relegated to an observer-only status.
Now, image this: A child or adult with special needs has the opportunity to be completely immersed in a typical summer activity. What a fantastic idea!
Well, we don’t have to use our imaginations anymore; someone has finally taken the barriers away: Gordon Hartman, the creator of the world’s first ultra-accessible water park. It is a fantastic idea, and it is a reality!
“Children and adults who have special needs are sometimes left out, not because they want to be but because sometimes things are not always adequate for them to use,” Hartman said.
Today is the opening day for Morgan’s Inspiration Island. A $17 million tropical-themed water park located in San Antonio, Texas. This astonishing park (check out the above link) merges those with and without disabilities into one experience. The greatest part of all is that it includes all special needs people.
There are waterproof wheelchairs that use compressed air instead of batteries (which the University of Pittsburgh helped develop); waterproof wristbands for those who tend to wander, quiet areas for those who get overwhelmed, and a way to quickly change water temperature for those who are sensitive to cold water. There’s more: fast passes for those who have trouble waiting in line, private wheelchair transfer areas, and the riverboat adventure attraction boats rise to meet passengers (instead of wheelchair ramps).
Admission? FREE FOR THOSE WITH DISABILITIES.
Anyone up for a road trip to Texas?