Opulent Mobility and Raising Up Difference as a Value with A. Laura Brody
Artist Self-Portrait with Kali
Jason and I were so excited to talk this week with A. Laura Brody, an artist here in Los Angeles with an exquisite sensibility. She describes herself as "a sculptor of the human body and its vehicles." Her sculptures are conceived with "a commitment to social justice and are inspired by art history and the spirit of scientific discovery." Her career as a professional costumer coupled with a passion for reuse gave her the skills needed to turn wheelchairs, walkers and mobility scooters into sculptural works of art. Laura believes that disability is a natural human condition and that instead of "fixing," hiding or denying it, we should make it "thrive."
Laura's belief that disability should not mean a loss of beauty led to "Opulent Mobility," a group exhibit comprised of art, designs, and creations dealing with and reflecting on disability and mobility. She co-curated two exhibits in 2015 and 2017 with disability activist and historian Anthony Tusler. In April of 2017 Broday gave a talk about the exhibits for the DisArts Symposium and took part in a panel discussion on the Spectacle of Accessibility at UCLA's Disability as Spectacle conference.
Both Jason and I were moved to learn that Laura's inspiration came from a friend disabled by a sudden stroke and from a friend who was a wheelchair user. She was struck by the "sheer ugliness" of the equipment, and that led to her exploring what it would mean to actually design more attractive equipment. In the podcast she shared some of the obstacles she faced in doing so, including medical licensing and liability issues. We all agreed that the simplest explanation for the aesthetics might be the lack of input from disabled persons themselves, and the inherent conflict between the tech and aesthetic mindsets. Laura emphasized that if you delved more deeply and thoughtfully into the issue, you might consider the thought that people actually don't want to think about disability, about illness, about death, even. "A lot of it is people simply don't want to look at -- they don't want to see the possibility that it could be them," Laura mused.
Laura curated the Opulent Mobility show with all of this in mind, as well as the desire to do something different than the usual "disability art." She wanted to reach a large group of people with something that wasn't patronizing or "slam your head in" but, rather, engaging -- "something that people could come together and have communication about -- things that were layered and in-depth and beautiful in ways that we don't always see."
Photo by A. Laura Brody
Listeners and readers can check out all of Laura's and other exhibitions at the following interactive link:
Opulent Mobility: Re-imagine disability and mobility
And here are other links that Laura suggested for more information:
Graham Pullin's Design Meets Disability
Liz Jackson The Girl With The Purple Cane
And more on the Opulent Mobility press page