Disability is not a ‘brave struggle’ or ‘courage in the face of adversity’ … Disability is an art. It is an ingenious way to live.
-- Neil Marcus
With (dis)ABLED BEAUTY: the evolution of beauty, disability and ability, we wanted to spark a conversation about disability that would continue to evolve over time. The impact of disability is far-reaching and pervasive. Perceptions of disability continue to influence perceptions of humanness, attractiveness, wholeness, intelligence, competence, ability, and power, among many other attributes. However, our understanding of disability continues to evolve. (dis)ABLED BEAUTY: the evolution of beauty, disability and ability showcases the innovative ideas and designs of apparel, prostheses, and assistive devices that contribute to the destigmatization of disability.
The concept for the show began with a research project conducted by the co-curators, Dr. Tameka N. Ellington and Dr. Stacey R. Lim. The project entitled Adolescents' Aesthetic and Functional View of Hearing Aids or Cochlear Implants and Their Relationship to Self-Esteem Level, focused on what teens wanted in their hearing devices. We asked our teen participants, “If you could design your own hearing device, what would it look like?” The responses received sparked a desire within the curators to dive deeper into this topic of the aesthetic and functional properties of hearing devices.
While attending a symposium on Fashion and Health at the University of Minnesota, the curators met a researcher, Martha Hall, who presented on fashionable prosthetic limbs. This connection was the beginning of further exploration of fashionable assistive devices, adaptive apparel, and prostheses for individuals with disabilities. During our exploration, we discovered the Alternative Limb Project in London, England, which is designed by Sophie de Oliveira Barata. She can be thought of as an Alexander McQueen of prosthetic limb. Her pieces are fanciful and opulent, offering a means of deconstructing the paradox of what it means to be disabled and beautiful.
(dis)ABLED BEAUTY: the evolution of beauty, disability and ability features a collection of hearing devices, canes, prosthetics, apparel and other assistive devices which make their wearer fashionable, abled and to some degree... superhuman.
Tameka N. Ellington, Ph.D.
Kent State University
Stacey R. Lim, Au.D., Ph.D., CCC-A
Central Michigan University