Outlook

Watercolor

38" x 30" $2,500.00


Julia Trahan, Age 28

San Francisco, California USA


I was scared.  Julia  Trahan  was  the  first

person I interviewed. I felt very comfortable

with her on the phone, but how would

she look? Would I be sensitive enough

during the interview? The minute we met,

she allayed my fears. I felt ridiculous wearing

all my layers of prejudice as we talked and

laughed. She responded to all my questions

without hesitation or condescension, and

my fears, built up over 35 years, started to

disintegrate one by one. We were enjoying

ourselves so much that we extended the

interview from two hours to  four. She was quite knowledgeable about disability rights and was the first person to tell me that everyone is normal,  yet what is normal for one person is not necessarily normal for another.


At 11 years of age, Julia was in a serious auto accident caused by another driver who swerved from the other side of the highway crushing the car into Julia's side. Now 28 years old, she has undergone fourteen operations. Presently, she walks with a colorful cane crutch, which she decorated herself. Julia dances in and produces shows involving drama, poetry reading, and dance. Her aim is to bring people together from various communities who want to create a strong voice through multimedia projects. People with and without disabilities, people of all colors, lesbians, and those with a broad scope of cultural experiences all contribute to her shows, artfully entertaining while addressing human rights and freedom of speech.


Julia helped me to use my strongest sense, sight, with more discretion. After our interview, I noticed more keenly than ever how my vision of disability had been distorted. I traced through all my visual reactions toward people who use tools for their disabilities.  All the eyes in Outlook express the degrees of feeling I've had from childhood up to the present. What was I seeing in the past and what it is I really want to see now? These tools now read as positive vehicles like any other tool we might use to perform a task- a pair of scissors, a pen, a can opener. Which eye is yours? What do you want to see?


Painting Sequence


Tools are clustered in groups of three from left to right, starting from the upper left:


FOUR-WHEELED WALKER  has a seat that comes in handy during a long walk.


SEAT CANE  is used like a cane, but has a seat attachment.


REACHER  is for people who have limited hand mobility or use wheelchairs to pick up objects on all levels.


FOREARM CRUTCH  is very much like a crutch, except for a half armband that provides support so that hands

have more mobility than when using regular crutches.


JULIA'S HAND-PAINTED FOREARM CRUTCH  is both aesthetically pleasing and practical.


ELECTRIC WHEELCHAIR  is easy on hands and moves quickly.


JULIA'S HAND PAINTED FOREARM CRUTCH is continued from above.


WALKER  provides stability when lower half of body is weak.


BLIND CANE  sweeps from side to side to orient blind person to people or objects nearby.


WHEELCHAIR  provides mobility.


QUAD CANE  helps in the transition from walker to cane.



Julia's Tunnel Vision


Straight lines have always frightened me. I get dizzy when people tell me who I am before we say "Hello." Flexibility

is strength.  Survival of the fittest means having ability to tap dance while the bullets fly. Perpetually moving, I avoid

being stuck.


I want to grab the world's eyes in my fists and drag people through symbols of ignorance, past what they know is

true, into what they know is real. We all use tools (adaptive aids) to survive. So much bigger than us, what is it that we

fear?


The sight of another's  limping reminds us of our own hideous fragility. Mortality.


HOW BORING!!


Why not see with vibrant eyes the brilliant contrasts of colors? Not dualistic light/dark, but mixtures, changes, contradictions. Opposites that are points-of-view of the same thing. Let it in. Don't accept the obvious. Straight lines

have always frightened me. Keep my eyes and heart open. Celebrate my fragility. Recognize my temporary mortality

for the gift that it is.




Athletes of the Spirit:

An Exploration of Disability

through Art and Writing