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Artist Katherine Sherwood, who learned to paint with her left hand after her right side was paralyzed by a stroke. Her work has been widely exhibited and written about by both art critics and neurologists.
Artist Katherine Sherwood, who learned to paint with her left hand after her right side was paralyzed by a stroke. Her work has been widely exhibited and written about by both art critics and neurologists.

In/Visible

Georgina Kleege has written about blindness—her own and its depiction in literature and film—in her landmark book Sight Unseen and re-imagined the life of disability icon Helen Keller in Blind Rage: Letters to Helen Keller.

Visual artist Katherine Sherwood learned to paint with her left hand, after a stroke paralyzed her right side, and now incorporates brain imaging in her work, which has been widely exhibited and written about by both art critics and neurologists.

Ann Fox and Jessica Cooley co-curated the exhibitions “Staring,” based on the landmark book Staring: How We Look, by Rosemarie Garland –Thomson, and “Re/Formations: Disability, Women, and Sculpture.”

Tobin Siebers is the author of Disability Theory, a book that has been called a powerful manifesto, and Disability Aesthetics, which examines the relationship between modern art and disability.

All of these leading thinkers on disability and how it informs the practice of art will be on Haverford’s campus on Feb. 25 to take part in a symposium titled  In/Visible: Disability and the Arts.

“Part of the conversation will be about representation, how different kinds of bodies contest ideas about beauty,” says Debora Sherman, assistant professor of English at Haverford and co-organizer of the event, which is sponsored by the John B. Hurford ’60 Humanities Center and supported by a Mellon Creative Arts Residencies Planning Grant.

“Art can be a means of making disability visible,” says Kristin Lindgren, visiting assistant professor of writing and director of the College Writing Center, who worked with Sherman to organize the symposium. “Sometimes people are more able to look at a photograph or a painting that engages disability than at an actual person with a disability.”

Besides examining the ways visual arts can highlight and explore the “spectacle” of visible disability, the symposium will also look at the issue of access: How galleries and museums can provide better access to art objects for people with disabilities.

“For someone in a wheelchair, hanging pictures at eye level is a problem,” says Sherman.  “And you might assume that a blind person would not want to go to a museum, but that is not necessarily the case.”  Symposium speaker Georgina Kleege, Sherman observes, has consulted with museums around the world, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Tate Modern in London, about ways to make visual art accessible to people who are blind or visually impaired.

One of the ideas underlying the field of disability studies, says Lindgren, is that people are disabled not by a bodily impairment, “but by the social and architectural constraints that make it difficult for a wide range of bodies to inhabit the world. Disability is really a civil rights and a human rights issue that may not be as familiar to people as some other human rights issues.”

To help make that connection clearer, In/Visible will coordinate its schedule with Human Rights: Right Here, a summit on economic human rights work in Philadelphia and beyond that runs Feb. 24- 25 on campus.

More information about In/Visible: http://www.haverford.edu/invisible/index.php

View the campus mobility map: http:/​/​www.haverford.edu/​ods/​resources/​mobility_map.php

The Climbing Stone, by Peter Rockwell '58, is located outside Magill Library.

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