posted Thursday April 8th, 2010
Last month, I wrote a bit about Crispin Glover’s movie “What Is It?” (I’ve seen it twice and I’m still not sure — nor am I convinced the creator knows much more than I do) and talked about the notion of an artist (in this case, a film maker) depicting people with Down syndrome without making that depiction be specifically about their disability.
In other words, Glover used (note: this is not an unintentional use of the word “used”) people with Down syndrome as actors depicting characters who were not, per se, disabled. At least, they were never mentioned or treated as such.
Before I saw that movie, I thought that was a swell idea, a novel concept, something really great for people with Down syndrome.
And to the contrary, before I saw the work of artist Chris Rush, I felt the opposite.
A retrospective of Rush’s work is on display now at the Mesa Arts Center. Called “Stare,” it largely depicts images of people with developmental and physical disabilities. That’s the point of the show, of much of Rush’s work.
Now that I’ve actually seen the show, I can’t say loudly enough how wrong I was. This artist — who hails from nearby Tucson — is absolutely remarkable. If you’re anywhere near Mesa, Arizona tomorrow night (and you don’t have tickets to see Elvis Costello, the one legitimate excuse I can think of) you should go meet him at the show’s opening reception. I wish I could.
My only disappointment with Rush’s show is that it didn’t include the image above, which I’ve admittedly pinched from his web site. I feel guilty about that, but I was so moved when my dear friend Trish showed it to me (she wrote about the show for New Times) that I couldn’t resist.
Rush — who, according to the scant materials on the Web about him, spent time working with developmentally disabled people and, with permission, drawing them (no, that’s not a photo — it’s done in Conte crayon, amazingly enough). Check out the images on his site and you’ll see what I mean when I say that his work is meaningful in a way that’s tough to put into words.
Funny, Rush faces disability without flinching, and for once, looking at his work, I don’t flinch, either.
For me, the image above, called Swim 2, is an incredible tribute to Sophie. Not that Chris Rush knows her, of course. But in that image, I see more clearly than I ever have the vision of Sophie as an adult. And it makes me incredibly happy.
As an aside, looking at that image, for the first time ever I entertained the possibility of getting a tattoo. When Sophie’s a grown up, if she wants to get them together, maybe I’ll do it.