Athletes of the Spirit:
An Exploration of Disability
through Art and Writing
watercolor and gum resist
30" x 36" $2,900.00
Julie Cohn, 34 years old
Berkeley, California USA
When I was a child, to be " handicapped"
or "crippled" usually went hand-in-hand
with being emotionally, physically, and
spiritually untouchable. Those children
didn't enter the same classroom I
did, nor did they appear to play on the
same playground, because during the
1960s, children with disabilities were
often put into special programs and
segregated from the majority of students
at their elementary schools. Interaction
between the two groups was rare. Therefore, I grew up with the notion that people with disabilities were not at all like me. As an adult, I knew there was something extremely wrong with this equation. It was only after I injured my hand playing guitar and had to live day to day with my own disability, called a repetitive stress injury, that I had better come to grips with my and others abilities and disabilities.
During the first phases of finding out about repetitive stress injury, I needed to ask questions and share my fears. But soon, my search led me past my own concerns, to the disabled community I had feared and ignored in the past. I am unable to play guitar or sometimes even lift a cup, but I have learned to accommodate my injured hand so I can still paint with watercolors. For over a year, I have been acclimating to a repetitive stress injury to my left hand. Repeated relapses have set back my recovery. Sometimes this lack of control is extremely frustrating. I needed a graphic image to convince me of my healing, to remind me how much control I can exert through having awareness of good posture, exercise, nutrition and rest. I now understand my body and its needs in a way that I never have before. The root of my existence, as with the broken and mended hand in Sustenance, is nutrition, which the roots of my broken hand absorb and spread to a healed, glowing hand. As I take care of myself and seek the medical care that addresses my condition - acupuncture,physical therapy,deep-tissue body work, and Feldenkreis body relaxation techniques, I heal slowly bu surely, understanding that tissues in the hand and wrist area are among the most difficult areas to mend once injured. This painting inspires me to know that one day I will be completely healed!