It’s a Bird! It’s a Plane! It’s Parking in the Handicapped Spot!

Categories: Media

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A thought-provoking art exhibit displays disabled artists’ portrayals of superheroes

By Joe Eskenazi

The ability to leap tall buildings in a single bound or sprint a locomotive may not gibe with conventional notions of…well, anything. But Superman-like qualities certainly don’t conjure up word associations with the term “disabled.”

And yet you don’t need to be Comic Book Guy to know that there are more disabled superheroes than you can shake a fistful of kryptonite at.

Just for starters, the eponymous Professor X of the X-Men and Oracle of the Birds of Prey are wheelchair-bound. And Daredevil is blind (thanks to a tube of some radioactive cooties, not the awful Ben Affleck movie).

Yet how do real disabled people – who don’t possess the ability to control others’ minds or leap across the rooftops and eliminate mad-dog Irish terrorists with a well-flung cane – conceive of super heroes? Francis Kohler figured he’d give them brushes, paints and canvas and see for himself.

The result was...

an exhibition titled “Super Heroes and Super Villains” at Creativity Explored, a 24-year-old arts program for disabled adults at 3245 16th Street.

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“As a curator at Creativity Explored, I’ve always been interested in creating shows that highlight the skills and groovy aesthetics of the artists. But I’ve also always wanted to include – sometimes subtly, sometimes not so subtly – political issues surrounding disabilities,” said Kohler of the show, which closes on Nov. 21.

“What I want people to do is come in … and think about the way people with disabilities are portrayed. It’s not a big leap to extrapolate the way people with disabilities are portrayed in comic books and the way people are portrayed in real life.”

But don’t let the advocacy bog you down – there’s some fantastic art here. Perhaps the standout is Warren Jee’s portrait of Bat Girl, which topped this article. Viewed in up close, Jee’s technique is breathtaking. It’s as if the Expressionists decided to stop painting whatever it is they were painting and focus on D.C. Comics heroes instead.

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More amazing, though, is that Jee is shackled with severe Cerebral Palsy and can only approach a painting by painstakingly focusing on tiny two-by-two inch sections at a time. A work like “Bat Girl” took many months.

“Warren’s stuff, it always sells,” says the admiring curator.

“The jiggly lines, the ragged textural motions – his stuff is unique. No one else paints like him.”

Paintings by (from top) Warren Jee, Laron Bickerstaff and Thomas Pringle


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