Arts and Humanities
3:12 pm
Wed January 15, 2014

State-wide Exhibit Showcases Kentucky Artists With Disabilities

"The Queen," digital image printed on masonite, Thaniel Ion Lee, 2013.
Credit Courtesy of Thaniel Ion Lee

The Kentucky Arts Council is curating a traveling exhibit of visual art by Kentucky artists with disabilities, and the first stop is Louisville.  The “identity” exhibit will open first at Weber Gallery, the storefront gallery run by the Council on Developmental Disabilities.

The gallery specializes in collaborations between Louisville’s professional artists and artists with disabilities. But the 30 artists in this juried show represent a diverse body of Kentucky artists - some well-established, others showing for the first time -  who self-identify as a person with a disability.

“I would just say I’m an artist who just happens to have a disability,” says Louisville artist Thaniel Ion Lee, who has two pieces in the exhibit.  “I view [the show] as a way to meet other artists. Any way I can get my art seen by other people is a good thing.”

Lee, who often shows his work at Swanson Contemporary Gallery in Nulu, has two pieces from his “Fake Paintings” series in the exhibit. They’re digital images printed on industrial masonite.

“They look very much like paintings, but when you come up to them, you see they’re printed,” he says. “I’m just always interested in making things that look like one thing that aren’t.”

Although he involves his wheelchair in some of his photography and performance work, Lee says his physical disability, which limits his mobility, mainly informs how he creates – for example, when he uses a digital tablet to create “fake paintings.”

“It’s a physical process issue,” he says. “I guess it is about having a disability as a default. If I could make the kinds of paintings I’d want to make easily, I’d never have to use the digital stuff. But then again, using the digital stuff opened up opportunities of things I couldn’t do with the paintings, the layering and stuff like that.”

The exhibit opens Friday at Weber Gallery (1151 S. 4th St.) with a public reception, 5:30-9 p.m. It will travel the state, with stops in Bowling Green and Lexington, later this year. Some pieces will appear in the offices of the Kentucky General Assembly during the legislative session.

The exhibit is funded by grants from the National Arts and Disability Center and the National Endowment for the Arts.