SOHA Art Gallery Presents The Work of Developmentally Disabled Artists from FineLine and Black Canvas Studios

By Christopher Reilly
In Culture

The artist Edward Hopper said, “If I could say it in words there would be no reason to paint.” Hopper’s point—that art can speak for us in ways that words simply cannot—goes right to the heart of “MAPPING,” the exhibition opening tonight at SOHA Studio and Gallery. The show features outsider art from FineLineStudio and Blank Canvas Studio, both of which are affiliated with Resources for Human Development, a national organization that supports adults with special needs through the arts. Don’t come expecting only to see art as a bi-product of “busy-work” though. Come expecting art that reaches to the very heart of human communication.

A Grown Woman by Salena Carter and Jackie Riese Courtesy of SOHA Studio and Gallery

A Grown Woman by Salena Carter and Jackie Riese
Courtesy of SOHA Studio and Gallery

The challenges faced by people with special needs are many, but perhaps the difficulty in communicating is the most critical. It may be due to lack of understanding by others or a personal inability, but this necessarily impairs connections and our very human need to share our thoughts and feelings with others. FineLine and Blank Canvas have lately turned to printmaking—which makes up the majority of the SOHA show—as a way for their artists to express their powerful messages.

Mad farck by Christina Whittaker Courtesy of SOHA Studio and Gallery

Mad farck by Christina Whittaker
Courtesy of SOHA Studio and Gallery

Artist Christina Whittaker, for example, draws from mainstream pop culture imbued with a progressive attitude. Her drawing, “Mad farck,” is reminiscent of subversive present day cartoon characters seen in underground comics and on social media, such as the memes featuring the crudely-drawn “Rage guy.” Sometimes Whittaker’s method flirts with montage; she cuts out raw figures from paper and gives mouths and teeth special prominence. Her text is garbled and often misspelled, yet this adds to the smoldering emotion inherent in her work.

Beautiful Tigers by Romaine Wilson Courtesy of SOHA Studio and Gallery

Beautiful Tigers by Romaine Wilson
Courtesy of SOHA Studio and Gallery

The show reminds us that art has the ability to deliver its message across social, cultural and intellectual barriers, and all art is the result of the artist’s struggle to communicate on a higher plane than otherwise possible. In this way, the artists represented in “MAPPING” are like any other artists. They also have stories to tell, and most likely, those stories are just as powerful and impactful as more renowned artists. Possibly more so, because the act of creating art is restoring these artist’s fundamental dignity as human beings.

“MAPPING” opens at SOHA Studio & Gallery, 4915 Macklind Avenue, St. Louis, MO, with a free public reception Friday, Jan. 31, 6-10pm and continues through Feb. 8. Gallery hours are Wednesday, Friday and Saturday from 11am to 4pm and by appointment. For more information, visit the SOHA Studio and Gallery website.

Follow Christopher Reilly on Twitter @ChristoReilly

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