KRISTEN VARDANEGA is an artist, illustrator, and cancer survivor living in Salt Lake City. Born in Northern California, Kris spent her twenties in Montana before needing to relocate to the Wasatch front in search of better healthcare. An avid outdoorsman and bird watcher, Her paintings and drawings speak to the memories, colors, atmosphere, and characters she has encountered in the Intermountain West.
BROKE is a collaborative, group installation that explores the connection between disability and socioeconomic class status (SES). How do social ideas about "worth" show up in how disabled people work, live, and play? How does socioeconomic status affect the day-to-day experiences of people with disabilities? What is necessary to create a world where social and economic agency and safety are an everyday part of disabled experience? BROKE brings together the work of four local artists working in a wide variety of mediums including assemblage, paint, and mixed media. These artists are part of Art Access’ Artist Working Group program: A creative research group that elevates the creative voices of artists making work about the intersection of disability and other significant social topics such as the environment, gender, and racial justice. Artists participating in the working group engage with questions concerning how the selected theme impacts their lived experiences, as well as the role art plays in communicating these ideas across abilities and mediums.
ANNE VINSEL was originally from the Midwest, moving to Utah for graduate school and staying for the people, the landscape and the less-polluted climate. She originally trained in psychology and had a career change to art after being run over by a drunk driver. Being told to color for therapy for a badly broken wrist, she was grabbed by art and has been a painter, sculptor and photographer ever since. Anne eventually got an MFA in art from the University of Utah and currently lives in Salt Lake City with a rehomed service dog named Dr. John, who is learning to be a painter’s assistant. Anne’s disability is hereditary, chronic and progressive and can change from day to day. Artistically, it requires frequent coping and adjusting on a tight budget. For example, she can no longer work on large paintings for hours at a time standing up and is working on reconfiguring her studio area to work from her bed or a chair. Anne’s painting technique employs oil paints applied with surgical tools, to be kind to her old-house plumbing. About her subject matter, Vinsel says, “I paint what I see. Sometimes I see things that aren’t there.”
Artist Statement: You can’t stop art. Even physical or mental disabilities and financial challenges won’t do it; artists will still make art. This show is about being an artist, an artist with disabilities, and being broke and being an artist with physical limitations. My pieces address all three aspects. I have included paintings on free surfaces, Amazon and other packing boxes; papier maché small sculptures made from flour, water and junk mailers; and some more traditional paintings financed by a generous supplies grant from Art Access.
FIONA SUMMERS is a mixed media artist based in Salt Lake City, UT. They have been creating since their tiny hands could hold a crayon and find immense joy in producing artwork. Fiona studied Studio Art and Biology at Kalamazoo College and often highlights their intersections in her work.
Artist Statement: Fiona’s work looks to the more than human world to better understand their own mental health experience. Though the entanglements of the political, social, economic, and physical world often feel overwhelming, she believes you cannot have liberation for all people without considering all aspects. In this work, Fiona utilizes the climate crisis as a metaphor for the mental health crisis to reveal their evident similarities and interconnectedness. Their commitment to community collaboration to overcome social and environmental injustices has inspired their collective approach in this show. She believes we can create a beautiful and just world, together.
Artist Statement: Contemplation of identity, place, belonging, and environmental structure dominate my work. I explore, remember, and solidify personal experiences by depicting and deconstructing the landscape, flora, and fauna of places I’ve inhabited. Inspired by illustrated books and naturalist field guides, I am interested in the spaces where science, memory, and art converge. I primarily work with water-based paint, and have experimented with many mediums, including paper-making, printmaking, and book arts.
SYLVIA O'HARA is an intuitive visual artist. She uses gather-and-curate approach to make mixed media art and assemblage. Her work playfully combines organic shapes, textures, and materials to create balance and bold beauty within her abstract designs. Sylvia uses recycled materials across mediums as she explores themes of identity, perspective, and transformation. Her small studio is based in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Artist Statement: Sylvia uses circles and squares as a metaphor for her experience with America corporate culture. Circles are likened to the cyclical nature of discrimination, poverty, and socio-economic status. Squares are likened to the rigidity of workplace structures and the unwelcoming experience of anyone who isn't a cookie cutter shape. Incomplete shapes are used to explore her experience as someone who simultaneously feels invisible and unable to blend in, standing out is a way that feels vulnerable, unsafe, yet strangely familiar. She uses her work to challenge her own ideas and societal norms about the intersection of identity, originality, and disability.
A NOTE ABOUT ACCESSIBILITY FOR THIS EXHIBITION
Art Access has worked with each contributing artist to make this exhibition accessible to a wide range of individuals. Each piece of art has been displayed for optimal accessibility heights: 48 inches high for the middle of hanging objects and 36 inches high for displays, which allows the art to be comfortably viewed by both seated and standing individuals. Additionally, the art labels for each piece have a QR code that allows patrons who are blind or have low vision to access audio descriptions of the works. Finally, many of the art pieces have a tactile component, allowing patrons to interact and touch the artwork.
BROKE was made possible by the generous contributions from the Jarvis & Constance Doctorow Family Foundation.