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Community and Internet Resources


Arts and Culture: Famous Artists who Experience(d) Living with Disability



Close, Chuck (born in 1940) is an American Photorealist painter who does enormous portraits of neutral faces. When Chuck Close was young he was dyslexic and not very athletic. He was told not to consider college. His family fell on hard times and became very poor. He liked to draw, however, and did study and graduated from the University of Washington in 1962. On Dec. 7, 1988 at the age of 49, Close was at the height of his career as a portrait painter when he was stricken with a spinal blood clot that left him a quadriplegic. Although he thought his painting career was over, he now paints from a motorized wheelchair, unable to move from the neck down. He builds his large portraits from small two-inch paintings. His paintings hang in the world's most prestigious museums. For more information on Chuck Close, his life and art check out this website. For an article about his life and triumph, Artist Chuck Close Triumphs Over Learning Disabilities by Emily Sherwood, Ph.D. on Education Update.

Demuth, Charles - (1883-1935) is recognized as a Precisionist, or Cubist-Realist painter. He translated European Cubism into American themes - grain elevators, silos and factories. As a boy, Charles Demuth led a sheltered, protected life because his health was frail. His family was wealthy, interested in the arts and encouraged him to study art. Later in his life he was severly diabetic. He was a master American watercolor painter. For more information on Charles Demuth, his life and his art, check out this website.

Kahlo, Frida - (1907-1954) born in Mexico, is known throughout the world for her unusual, colorful, and sometimes disturbing paintings. Frida Kahlo's disabilities stemmed from childhood polio and a horrible bus accident when she was eighteen. She had relapses of tremendous pain and fatigue all throughout her life, which caused her to be hospitalized for long periods of time, bedridden at times. Many of her paintings reflect the physical pain she suffered through most of her life. Despite her untimely death in 1954, Kahlo continues to be admired as one of Mexico's greatest artists and feminist icons. For more information about the life of Frida Kahlo, check out the website listed above.

Mackintosh, Dwight (1906-1999) was institutionalized shortly after his sixteenth birthday. Dwight Mackintosh spent the next 56 years within the walls of various institutions. Obscure clinical sketches reveal a history of psychosis and possible schizophrenia. Whatever the case, Dwight withdrew from the world. Dwight drew pictures that externalized the artist's inner reality. His intense drawings possess a visual authority and an originality that establishes them as significant works of art. Drawing intensely and self-assuredly, on plain white paper, most often with a felt tip pen, this was an artist whose only means of self-expression was derived from an intense preoccupation with the line. Dwight's work has been carefully documented in recent years as the depth and artistic impact of his drawing has been recognized.

Rauschenberg, Robert (1925 - 2008) In May, 1999, "ARTNews" magazine featured Robert Rauschenberg, an American Pop Artist, as one of the top twenty-five influential western artists. "Rauschenberg pushed the viewer to accept the unexpected." Rauschenberg had dyslexia, a reading disability that made school very difficult for him. He has stated that his dyslexia helped him in his art. He liked to create prints that combined several different pictures. In an interview he once stated that "…because I am dyslexic, I was very good at the print workshop economically, because I can see backwards and forwards at the same time! I don't have to proof it, I can already see it!" For a personal experience article by the artist, visit LD online - First Person - Robert Rauschenberg in which the artist speaks of his life and work.


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