Darcy Meeker will be contributing occasional articles to the ISC Web
Special on the subject of adapting sculptural techniques to individual
needs. The current article is an introduction to the subject and the
author. At the end of the article, she gives a list of useful
Internet-accessible resources and links on the topic.
one of the lucky ones among the many disabled stone carvers. The bad news:
Myotonic Muscular Dystrophy is slowly eating away at my muscles. There is
no treatment. No amount of exercise or physical therapy will hold it at
bay. There’s nobody to be mad at -- it is genetic. No wars or bad drivers
to curse. It comes on in midlife, so I got to build muscle and balance as a
healthy young adult who loved to dance, hike, bike, and do martial arts. It
comes on slowly, too, giving me time to adjust.
year or two before my diagnosis, I noticed that if I was being uncertain or
critical, telling myself, “Noses don’t look like that,” or “you should do
this or that,” tools would just fall out of my hands. It was kind of
enforced integrity – I had to be in harmony with myself, the stone, and the
universe. What a gift!
can still grip—not with my fingers, which don’t bend, but thumb to
forefinger with my middle finger folded under as a guide. I have maybe 20%
normal strength, so zippers, jars, and doors are a problem. My Makita die
grinder, too. It got replaced by a Foredom flexshaft– more money, but
easier to hold and gets into tighter spots. Later, hammer and chisel were
replaced by a Mastercarver flexshaft with a reciprocating chisel handpiece.
My grip works for my flexshafts and most of my beautiful Italian rifflers.
And for some of my lovely English wood push-chisels: if I line myself up
right, and steady the rock right, so I can use both hands on the chisel,
and, if I keep the alabaster wet, then I can carve a face that touches your
soul in a reasonable amount of time.
can still tool copper when my body or the weather nix carving outside, so I
doodle on copper for flamed architectural-scale wall sculptures and bas
reliefs for homes. Now I’m drawing, too, in ink, using different point
sizes to get a sculptural effect in 2-D.
husband, Jim, polishes and hauls my sculptures. Fridays, people carve with
me. They are getting very professional and feeling very empowered. We show
together as Backyard Stone Carvers, and not just locally either. We’ll be
on pedestals together in the Andrews (NC) Museum of Fine Art this summer
while my big flamed copper wall sculptures cover the walls.
can be organized, networked, proactive, and “Post-It queen” enough to help
workshops, shows, and art centers happen, increasing opportunities for us
all. My tablet PC lets me write by hand for short entries. Dragon Naturally
Speaking software lets me dictate longer text.
can make my sand bags with styrofoam beads from bean-bag chairs. They work
well for shipping, too. I can do smaller carvings with my new turbo-carver
humming along at 450,000 water-cooled revs. I can change my finishing
practices; 1600-grit sandpaper isn’t really necessary. Sanding at 220 grit
is enough, if, once the bruises and lumps are filed down perfectly, I soak
the stone in baby oil, and seal it with wax.
can still walk --on a smooth surface at what feels like one-half mile an
hour – thanks to sandals that I designed that keep me from tripping over my
toes, but also keep me cool enough that I don’t faint. That’s sculpture,
can still raise one hand over my head, so light things can be stored above
my shoulders, and I have a hydraulic table and hydraulic chair in my studio
so that I can always be working a little below my waist.
can still push and pull things around, and the flexshaft motors I can’t
lift hang on a nice, stable six-wheel IV pole from a hospital. So I have
wheels on my chair, my table, my tool tower, and my tool cabinet. Ready to
rock and roll – that’s me.
Special Devices Help Handicap Sculptors. Professor Norman Holen
taught sculpture a Augsburg College in Mineappolis, and made special tools
to allow his students to sculpt on their own.http://www.augsburg.edu/now/archives/summer02/holen.html#
Green and Garry Curry are quadriplegic stone sculptors. They founded the
"Society of Disabled Artists" Victoria on Vancouver Island in
British Columbia, Canada . Focus: making art accessible by user-friendly
workstations and customized tools and helping the artist gain skills and
confidence. website: homepage.mac.com/soda.studio email:email@example.com
Young makes big metal sculptures in Los Angeles. From her wheelchair.
Naranjo, an artist born in Santa Clara Pueblo who lost his eyes and much of
the use of his right hand in a grenade blast as a soldier in Vietnam,
carves beautiful, flowing stone sculpture and works in bronze. Seehttp://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa116.shtml
winter 2004. Brian Grossman developed MS, saw it as writing on the wall,
quit his job and lived in his truck for a while so he could afford to carve
stone. I met him at the Loveland (CO) Invitational Sculpture Show and Sale.
Later he was doing Sculpture in the Park, also in Loveland. His stones then
were typically 10-14 inches and looked like loops of barbed wire, except
that they were so beautiful and full of light, carved of impossibly thin
Colorado alabaster, which goes all transparent in spots.
for artist with disabilities. More of a blog than a website, but
lots of useful links,
registry, Creative Spirit Magazine
International VSA festival, Washington, DC, June 6–12, 2010www.vsartsfestival.org VSA
was long known as Very Special Arts. Words such as ‘special’ and
‘handicapped’ do not reflect current language trends in the United States
and many other countries. Therefore, we are now just VSA—The International
Organization on Arts and Disability. VSA is an affiliate of the John F.
Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Arts in Action VSA
showcases the accomplishments of artists with disabilities and promotes
increased access to the arts for people with disabilities. Education Programs VSA
provides educators, parents, and artists with resources and the tools to
support arts programming in schools and communities.
Council on Independent Living http://www.ncil.org lists
local offices. The one in Richmond VA has an annual “Craft Show” in March
that is well attended and receives good community support