Exploring Deaf Geographies
Rainy Thursday afternoon in February. Have sold sufficient hours of labor for the week. Set out on foot for “Exploring Deaf Geographies” at Pyramid Atlantic Art Center.
The work of five deaf artists is at hand. Can’t say whether knowing the work was by deaf people shapes my interaction with it, but it probably does. It helps that I am the only one in the exhibit space at the time. There is but little background noise from nearby. I looked at the work on Pyramid’s web site ahead of time. It’s more intimate in person, aware of the quiet, leaning in close.
I see something of myself in “Incidental Exposure” by Laural Hartman. A distracted look, a reverse mohawk hairline. This may be an abstraction sprung from a specific journey in her life, her exhibit notes suggest.
A sense of movement in “Awake” by Youmee Lee. A marshy, aquatic landscape under the moon. Birds in flight. A stream of consciousness trails behind a central figure.
“F Bomb” by Melissa Malzkun seems to exemplify De’VIA, art that comes from the deaf experience and culture. One of a series of prints meant to show “how glorious rich sign language is.” The bomb in question is the raised middle finger, one of the very few signs understood beyond deaf geography.
In his notes, Aaron Swindle doesn’t discuss his artistic process but mentions that he likes jamming on his drum set. Which gives me pause. “Sleepwalking” feels like its title, a fleshy amorphous shape emerging from a darker, more crammed space into a lighter, place of simpler images.
“Virtual Flower from a Hand” by Yiqiao Wang, a precise, skilled papercutting of a red flower growing from a person’s hand. The fingers might have eyes. Brings to mind When the Moon Was Ours (Anna-Marie McLemore), a novel about a woman from whose body flowers grow.
The exhibit notes explain: “Deaf Geographies are at once both physical and abstract spaces, ranging from Deaf community hubs such as Washington, DC, and Rochester, NY, to conversations, impressions, and memories shared by Deaf people expressing their identities.”
Highly regarded colleges for the deaf in each of those cities. The show was curated by Tabitha Jacques, director of the Dyer Arts Center, which is associated with the National Technical Institute for the Deaf at the Rochester Institute of Technology. Looks an interesting place but unfortunately far from dear old Hyattsville.
Just down Route 1 is a brewpub founded by graduates from Gallaudet College. If you go there, it helps if you know ASL. I usually just point to things on the menu and hand over my credit card.
A unique type of art that focuses on, examines and tells a story Focuses on examines and tells a story that comes from the deaf cultural, cultural, linguistic and intersectional POV and experience, often based on one of three environmental prompts: resistance, affirmation, and/or liberating celebration of the Deaf experience.