A Synopsis: My Journey with Art and Disability

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By: Sojourner Davidson

My journey with art has been deeply connected with my experiences with being differently abled. When I was in 1st or 2nd grade I was diagnosed as dyslexic. I already knew that I had trouble with reading and writing, so this was just putting a name to a struggle I had gotten used to. When everyone was supposed to be reading words, I read the pictures. Through the pictures I could create scenarios and stories of my own. When we were supposed to write stories, I illustrated. When I could not fall asleep I would doddle in sketchbooks, and scribble in journals.

In art, I could create and explore alternate worlds and understandings. I use art as a conduit to express ideas and emotions that I could not voice. In middle school and high school art helped me to push past the shame that came with living with anxiety and depression. It is in this way that art is wonderful; translating the invisible into the tangible. Art can replicate and mass communicate feelings that are too painful to confront with words. In some ways art can be one of the most anonymous forms of communication; it is a code, and a secret conversation whose translation can be different for every viewer.

Having disabilities like dyslexia, major depression, general anxiety, and ADHD sometimes limits the the forms of communication that I am able to fully engage with. Currently it is easier and more enjoyable for me to read comics than novels, or any long-form writing. Because of the ways in which I experience ADHD I am able to focus on a story with pictures that suggest movement more than I am able to focus on the stagnant text of a page. Dyslexia sometimes causes me to reread lines of text, and rearrange, flip, or replace letters/entire lines of text. These things together make it difficult for me to read long texts. Although these disabilities sometimes limit the the forms of communication I am able to fully engage with they are are also lenses through which I form a greater appreciation for the art forms I am able to enjoy.

These days, I am exploring the alternate worlds created by web comic artists Chessie Isa and Megan Lavey-Heaton, Mildred Luis, and Alexis Sugden. These women create worlds of mystery, science-fiction, and fantasy, sometimes altering classic fairytales or creating their own mythologies in order to explore concepts, issue, and create representations of themselves within media. This is what I wish to do with my life: create stories through art and sometimes words, that include character representations of myself and other people of color, disabled people, and queer people, navigating imaginary and alternate worlds in which our existence can be more free and our struggles and triumphs can be acknowledged. It is through multiple journeys that I have found and fallen in love with this form of art and storytelling, and I am thankful for the struggles that have led me to comics, and have helped me to form my identity as an artist and a human being.

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