Pandora's Box of Audism


Inspired by Pablo Picasso’s Guernica, the motif is the treasure box, or Pandora’s Box of Audism. There are so many representative elements packed into this powerful painting, all coming together to tell the untold stories of the infamous Milan 1880 conference that forever scarred Deaf education and destroyed thousands of Deaf people’s lives. The black flags represent the Food & Drug Administration, A.G. Bell Headquarters, and National Institutes of Health, all of which purport the pathological perspective of Deaf people. A.G. Bell’s practices are often the elephant in the room, as shown here. Other elements include:

Bad doctor: Specialists and AGB supporters who are interested only in capitalism
Maze: The struggle of assimiliation found in so many Deaf communities around the world
Lantern: Shines a beam on audism and genocide
Coffin door: Shows past and present problems being nailed shut and buried
Deaf patient: Black holes represent the loss of identity
Hourglass: Time is of the essence
Chain and ball: Discrimination, inaccessibility, and unemployment
Monkey with swirly eyes: Deaf people will recognize this as representative of the audiologist’s office and field
Bag with hands inside: Deaf people’s gateway to the world — their hands — are taken prisoner
Baby: Taken away from its mother and Deaf community, leading to a loss of Deaf identity
Baby with wings: Being robbed of identity and language through cochlear implantation
Woman with wings: Mother of Deaf souls, holding up Eyeth
Eyes with tallies: Timeless with no chance at freedom
Fence (my trademark): Trapped in the room of isolation and deprivation
Victory Lady statue: Based on the Rochambeau Statue in Washington, D.C. (which was created by a Deaf French sculptor, Fernand Hamar): The mother of Deaf people’s rights

Weaved together, these create a story that is all too common among many Deaf children and adults.


Ellen Mansfield


Pandora's Box of Audism




Acrylic on canvas


A painting that has been inspired by Pablo Picasso, with various representative elements. Through an opening in the ceiling, a hand holds a lit lantern in the top center. On the left, a woman in a blue dress, with wings, is holding up Eyeth and flying through the air. A two-faced woman, wearing a yellow dress, black boots, with a red belt, is holding a blue-yellow flag in her left hand and a sword in her right hand. A brown hawk flies from a brown coffin door in the front of the flag. In the upper right area, a cop-like figure is putting gray cuffs on a figure wearing a red shirt in a gray bag with hands as a pattern. Behind the figures, there is a window with bars and different diamond shaped colors. A reddish monkey with swirling eyes sits in a container in the bottom center. In the lower left area, a doctor, wearing green scrubs and black glasses, is holding a scalpel up as to cut the person in a white bodysuit underneath. The person in the white bodysuit is laying on top of the black and white checkered floor with small lines across the face while holding the right hand out. There is a black hole in the middle of the stomach. On the right of the doctor, there is another doctor, wearing green scrubs and black glasses, walking away with a red/black baby with a wind up key. Behind the doctors, there is a big gray elephant holding a small figure, with a gray tail ending in a red/white tip. Next to the elephant, a figure with blond hair is looking upward while holding a hand in a closed “C” shape above the tongue. Like a maze, there are some stairs throughout the picture. There are three groups of black flags in the upper left corner, behind women in the middle, and lower right corner. The background varies from dark blue to light blue in multiple shades.


Ellen Mansfield, “Pandora's Box of Audism,” RIT/NTID Dyer Arts Center , accessed June 30, 2022,