Dispelling ‘The Myth of Disability’

Mikki O’Phelan’s “Knots: Self- Portrait #1” archival pigment print.

Mikki O’Phelan’s “Knots: Self- Portrait #1” archival pigment print.

For some, overcoming a disability is a challenge. For others, it’s a solution.

“REVEALED, The Myth of Disability” is the new exhibition at WCC’s Gallery ‘Iolani from Sept. 13 – Oct 9. It features the work of artists who deal with unique challenges.

“It’s the overcoming that is so powerful,” said Toni Martin, art professor and Gallery ‘Iolani coordinator.

Martin said that she always wanted to do an exhibition to recognize artists who create works despite difficult or extreme challenges.

Mikki O’Phelan was 19 years old when a sharp pain suddenly struck her right hand revealing rheumatoid arthritis–changing her life forever. She learned to push herself beyond her disability by embracing pain in order to create photographs of her deformities. The effort to take images of her hands and arms in different positions was hard, demanding and extremely painful. “These images have brought me at times to the edge of insanity or to the precipice of redemption,” said O’Phelan.

Michael Yano suffers from depression stemming from early childhood trauma. Medical treatment has allowed him to complete his paintings. “Doing art reflects the healing-ness of calm and healing within myself,” said Yano.

Isa Shimizu cannot express himself through words. He was diagnosed with autism at the age of 4, yet he enjoyed drawing since he was young. He and his mother came to Hawai‘i from Japan when he was 16 because his mother wanted broader opportunities for him. His artwork has been shown in Guam, Saipan, Japan and Hawai‘i.

Local boy Kurt Tateishi has a brain injury, which prevents him from working at his former job. So he started taking ceramics at WCC. Focusing is a frequent and difficult challenge for him, but not when making art. When he creates with clay, he leaves the world outside.

Painting by Michael Yano.

Painting by Michael Yano.

“Challenges often invigorate the human spirit,” said Martin. “The creativity is endowed in all of us, but for some people incredible challenges must be overcome to have a voice.”

Painting by Dennis Okada.

Painting by Dennis Okada.

by Debbra Baetz, Ka ‘Ohana Editor in Chief