“Art is a conversation with life. To be an artist, one is necessarily engaged with the world. Both outer and inner worlds. Art does not happen in a vacuum.”
by Angela Weddle compiled by Keri Bowers
While celebrating Black History this month, it is important to keep in mind that history is continuing to be made. And one way it is made is by recognizing our present condition and actively working to improve it.
In supporting black autistic artists and all artists and people, spaces must be inclusive. We must think about who has the right to tell (certain) stories; to respect how we tell our stories, and to empower people to have the agency to tell their own. Spaces must allow for psychological reckoning and healing, and for a multiplicity of voices, of bodies, of narratives.
Art is a conversation with life. To be an artist, one is necessarily engaged with the world. Both outer and inner worlds. Art does not happen in a vacuum.
Here is a video I created for Black History Month titled “This House is on Fire Black Lives Matter.”
To be engaged with life is to be present with all of our realities.
Artists are often the vanguard of society. We can lead the way in through equity in accommodations, narratives, and opportunities. Art is not dead. And our institutions shouldn’t be. They should be living, as art is; every changing and growing, as life itself is.
In supporting autistic artists, we also support black autistics who are disproportionately accepted and promoted in the art world. The disabled and BIPOC communities share many commonalities. BIPOC, which stands for Black, Indigenous, People of Color is used to acknowledge that not all people of color face equal levels of injustice. The term is significant in recognizing that Black and Indigenous people have been, and continue to be, severely impacted by systemic racial injustices. We have all seen the results and impact horrific and brutal treatment of disabled and autistic people, and people of color.
I am and will always remain, a stand against all injustice inflicted on marginalized peoples all over the world. Here is some art work I’ve created that relates to Black History Month and Black Lives Matter.
Equity, Self-Determination, and a Place at the Table
The needs for accessibility and accommodations, living wages, the mitigation of the effects of gentrification, the need for community, for affordable, safe housing, for autonomy, for income equality, and for equitable participation in society spans these identities. Many think of the art world as diverse. However, only 19% of artists make over $50,000 a year. Source: https://news.artnet.com/art-world/artist-financial-stability-survey-1300895
This means inherent income inequality for black, autistic, and disabled artists.
Prestigious art institutions are built on a history of colonialism, and often exclude black and indigenous artists. We watch as others profit from works without proper remuneration to such artists. There is still much racism in the art world. A world built upon exclusivity, privilege, and manufactured scarcity. There is also a lot of ableism. Many spaces are not handicapped accessible, and not all spaces are sensory friendly.
There is an emphasis on works and a narrative that does not include BIPOC artists and disabled and autistic artists, or when included, are done so under the banner of tokenization; of being an “outsider” artist, with venues that profile off of the labor of disabled artists. There is a lack of workers protection and workers’ rights.
Art is amazing and can be healing and unifying. It has also been used as propaganda. It has elevated the careers of fascists, sexual predators, and racists without question, has fostered misogyny and abuse, and can maintain the status quo just as it can challenge and change it.
Artists are often seen as flaky, hippies, only interested in peace. Hitler painted. Our museums are built upon stolen treasures and works from Africa and other nations, upon a legacy of imperialism.
Artists have been a part of all times and ideologies. Artists are not a monolithic group.
The history of Western art is a history of exclusion and elitism. A history that prizes works of certain sizes and mediums, certain subject matter, and work that reflects the interests of white, cisgendered, able bodied people largely. The attention now upon BLM includes the plight of black trans folks by cisgender allies is timely and critical.
Articles like these address racism in the Art World:
In the last couple of years there has been a shift:
As a gender fluid/agender individual, in addition to challenging autism and cerebral palsy among other physical issues. This fact has added a layer of hurdles, imposed upon individuals like me, making our inclusiveness all the more difficult – yet imperative. The dangers of systemic racial, gender, and disability inequality leave everlasting scars upon us. For me, the arts have been the conduit to understanding and expressing myself in a world that requires I work harder to simply “be”. It is art that gives rise to my voice in a sea of derogatory chatter. Art itself holds no bias, and there is great freedom in this fact.
I think Western Art is amazing. But I also believe that no one culture can tell the story or set the rules of expression for humanity. Western culture encompasses many cultures and must reckon with all the great and terrible things from our past and present.
We hear about Native American Shamans, yet black people have those same traditions.
“Below is an excerpt from Angela’s submission to our 4th Annual Art & Poems for Peace Series, 2018, Angela words are a perfect description of the activism and purpose of Angela and her work towards making the world a more equitable, vibrant, inclusive place to be.
Drowning in ideals of friendship, nourishment, connection. I twist and turn inside resisting within. Silently screaming.
I twist and turn in my sleep, finding no utopia in my dreams. I wake up. There is no utopia.
There is only this peace I create from chaos. I call it art. I call it autism.
I am not disconnected. I am plugged in…to there, to here, to your promises, to your failures, to the red flags. I burned my white flags. There is no surrender.
My peace does not come from utopia. It comes from the wildly sublime discomfort of living, from the harsh beauty of reality, my reality. They told me I was not realistic. Well, neither is their Utopia.
Angela Weddle has been a board member of The Art of Autism for several years. Behind the scenes, she is often a lightning rod for projects such as Black History Month and other initiatives. In 2018, Angela participated in our 2018 “Created on iPad” project in collaboration with Apple. Her insights and guidance on matters of race, ableism, and even (often) the words or potentially controversial art pieces we publish, is an essential part of our administrative decisions and work.
As a multi-media artist, Angela likes to make art traditionally using 2d mediums, pen and ink, watercolors, acrylics, oil pastel and paint, linocuts, and monoprinting. Her work on her iPad Pro using an Apple Pencil, has increased the temperature of her work to HOT, and includes an unmistakable style and vibration of complexity and soul. Her intricate paintings of subjects ranging from people un-posed going about daily life, to color, light, patterns, and nature – especially her complex analysis of trees, mountains, and cityscapes – are mesmerizing.
Her video, featured here for Black Lives Matter, is the offspring of her efforts to learn to animate and tell stories sequentially as she leans in to see art in fresh new ways with infinite possibilities in visual storytelling. We are both fortunate and privileged to have Angela’s wisdom and works in our collections, and to know her as a strong and determined Board Member.
As an arts organization, we often find a difficult balance in sharing #actuallyautistic art and blogs. We promote each individual’s right to self-determination including the right to self-disclose, personal choices in the words used, and other content.
We have more Black History Month Blogs to share with you, so keep a lookout for more about this vital event honoring people of color, 2021.
Header image: Angela Weddle “Self-Portrait”