Medusa’s Mirror: Fears, Spells & Other Transfixed Positions



Joseph Grigely (Chicago), Neil Marcus (Berkeley), Carmen Papalia (Vancouver), Katherine Sherwood (Berkeley), Laura Swanson (New York), Sunaura Taylor (New York), Sadie Wilcox (San Francisco), Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi (Chicago)

In Greek mythology, Medusa was viewed as a monster, and gazing directly upon her would turn onlookers into stone. Inspired by this myth, the artists in Medusa’s Mirror address the able-bodied gaze upon the disabled subject – often viewed with fear, curiosity or wonder – by turning the gaze upon the viewer. This shift allows the disabled subject to claim agency and gives cause for the able-bodied viewer to reflect on their own frameworks. The piercing gaze as interpreted through medicine are explored in Katherine Sherwood’s mixed media paintings and Sadie Wilcox’s examinations of the roles of patient, caregiver and doctor. The medicinal gaze is further skewed into the world of the sideshow in the work of Sunaura Taylor, articulating the point of tension in the gaze.

Several works draw from the ruptures between the able-bodied and the disabled. Deaf artist Joseph Grigely’s explores the ruptures and failures of communication, pointing to the rift between spoken and signed language. Blind artist Carmen Papalia’s guided walking tours leads the closed-eyes participants to experience the world using their other senses – primarily sound and touch. Visual representations of the body and our relationship toward body image are thoughtfully explored in Chun-Shan (Sandie) Yi’s latex sculptures and in the discomfort reflected in Laura Swanson’s photographs. The body is further addressed in Neil Marcus’ drawings, an extension of his performance practice, which grapples with mobility and movement as one with dsytonia. The works in Medusa’s Mirror bring to light the able-bodied gaze upon the disabled subject and in turn point to the vulnerabilities and fragilities commonplace with all human beings.