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Looking again: on the work of Susan Austin and Danny Gregory
Some artists can cause us reframe our view of the world. Both through the art itself, the processes used to create work and the ways in which these ripple out into the world, in some contexts the experience of disability can serve to help people see what is really there. Jo Verrent explores….
Another artist who has taken the experience of disability and utilized it to transformational purpose is Danny Gregory – not a disabled person himself, but the husband of a wife who became a disabled person suddenly and without warning. The back cover of his memoir ‘Everyday matters’ explains: “Danny Gregory and his wife, Patti, were in love. Their baby, Jack, was ten months old; life was pretty swell. And then Patti fell under a subway train and was paralysed from the waist down. In a world where nothing seemed to have much meaning, Danny decided to teach himself to draw…”
The book – and the art movement it created – does not focus on disability, although nor does it ignore it, but it was instead triggered by it. On one hand, the book is simply an account of his wife’s accident and his own coming to terms with her disability through creativity; on another it’s a call to arms; a call to all of us to wake up and begin to see the world differently, with greater honesty, realism and freedom. It’s a call to see what is really there and to truly understand the beauty in everything that surrounds us.
It’s a call that resonated widely. His book became a best seller, drawing groups sprouted up across the USA and overseas, his ‘Everyday Matters’ Yahoo group has over 4000 members, the Flickr site has almost 50,000 items posted up to view, and the number of blogs that were spawned were so many, that a superblog site was created to showcase some of the best.