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Guest Lecture: The Aesthetic Imprint of Disability, Dr. Rosemarie Garland-Thomson

December 2, 2017 @ 5:00 pm6:00 pm


This lecture is given in conjunction with the exhibit Creativity and Inclusivity on view in Rust Hall. More information on the exhibit can be found here. A Reception for the exhibit will be held directly following the lecture.

This lecture explores how disability is represented in art. Some of the artists included are people who identify as disabled or are identified by others as disabled, such as Judith Scott, Kathryn Sherwood, or Chuck Close. For some of the artworks and artists, Dr. Garland-Thomson emphasizes how the experience of disability shaped their aesthetic products, as was the case with Claude Monet. However, the presentation is much broader in its scope than solely works by artists with disabilities. As Dr. Garland-Thomson will show, when we narrow our focus on disability in art and only include works by artists who identify as disabled, we can run into the traditional (but limited) conception that labels art produced by disabled people as a form of therapy. This issue of therapy and education is part of the original focus and mission of the Very Special Arts organization. This organization, which calls itself VSA now, presents art by disabled people not as a form of therapy but rather as aesthetic creation. As Dr. Garland-Thomson will discuss, the lingering idea that art therapy for people with disabilities is not “real” art is something worth dispelling.

Rosemarie Garland-Thomson is Professor of English and bioethics at Emory University, where her fields of study are disability studies, American literature and culture, bioethics, and feminist theory. Her work develops the field of critical disability studies in the health humanities, broadly understood, to bring forward disability access, inclusion, and identity to communities inside and outside of the academy. She is the author of Staring: How We Look and several other books. Her current book project is Habitable Worlds: Toward a Disability Bioethics.

This exhibition was made possible through grants provided by the Tennessee Arts Commission and ArtsMemphis. 


December 2, 2017
5:00 pm – 6:00 pm
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Memphis College of Art


Rust Hall – Callicott Auditorium

1930 Poplar Avenue



United States

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