Introduction

This is Not Normal: Deaf Modernist Sensibilities

Modernism in art is about challenging “normalcy,” rejecting conventional art, and focusing on the human experience, tapping into the unconscious and the dream world. This is especially true of Surrealism, a Modernist style with features that have been incorporated into the work of many deaf and hard-of-hearing artists, who are strongly influenced by figures like Rene Magritte, Salvador Dali, Man Ray, and Leonora Carrington.

More recently, this focus on the human experience and the unconscious mind has led artists and writers to frequently produce social consciousness on current issues through their work, especially since in very recent times, our lives have been turned upside down in many ways.

In this exhibit, Deaf artists explore imagery through modern art forms in response to changing cultural, environmental and political landscapes. There are juxtapositions of images that are taken out of their usual context. Images are enlarged or emphasized, and are often symbolic, provocative or dreamlike. The specific combinations of images are sometimes puzzling or mysterious. 

Angie Goto’s I See Therefore I Am, Pamela Witcher’s To Be is to Be and Zeniab Sadeghi Kaji’s Deaf People Can Fall in Love all deal with introspection and exploring one’s identity or identification with the Deaf community. Raymond Fuyana’s West and Dark Dream, along with Randy Dunham’s Cool Oasis, express the political struggles involved with preserving the environment or coping with the scarcity of natural resources. Engulfed and Dystopian Justice, collage pieces by Lori Dunsmore, demonstrate the rage many are experiencing with the current state of the American government. Digital photo montages by Rick Hurst, Tony Fowler and Robin Bartholick show absurdities of modern life, occasionally with tragic consequences. Susan Dupor’s Nightwatch, Juan Estrella’s Multiple Eyes and Nicole Cure’s Silent Premonition all emphasize eyes in their works, a feature that is common with deaf and hard-of-hearing artists expressing what is being valued. Harry Williams’ doors in his Coffin Door and Coffin Doors II seem out of place in the ocean, yet they represent either barriers or the unknowns beyond.

The title of this 65-piece exhibit, “This is Not Normal,” is derived from Marissa DiDonna’s Normalcy, in which she interrogates assumptions about life as it is today. In this exhibit, you will see an astonishing variety of art from 16 deaf and hard-of-hearing artists, and you will be challenged to consider: “What is normal?”

This is Not Normal