In Deaf Artists in America, Deborah M. Sonnenstrahl wrote, “There have always been American artists who are deaf… Their lives and their works offer us a glimpse into their respective worlds and invite us to broaden our understanding of the complex tapestry that is life and art.” [pg xv] Much like Deaf artists, through time and across the world Coda artists have used art to express their unique worldview.
When Coda artists create work that depicts or describes their experiences, these works may be recognized as Deaf View Image Art, or De’VIA. De’VIA, an artistic movement founded by nine Deaf artists at the Deaf Way conference in 1989, defined a genre of Deaf Art that addressed the experiences of Deaf people as a cultural linguistic minority [“Deaf Art” by Wylene Rholetter in SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia pg 149-155]. In particular, the creators emphasized, “De’VIA is created when the artist intends to express their Deaf experience through visual art. De’VIA may also be created by deafened or hearing artists, if the intention is to create work that is born of their Deaf experience (a possible example would be a hearing child of Deaf parents).” [De’VIA Manifesto, 1989] While some Coda artists overtly include aspects of their linguistic and cultural experience, others do not. In either case, the artistic expression of Codas are part of our rich cultural heritage. Read on to learn about historical and contemporary Coda artists!
Gloria Maliarik (1928-2016)
Gloria Maliarik was raised by deaf parents in the Northwest side of Chicago. She attended the Art Institute of Chicago and ITT Institute of Design after high school. For many years, she took work from advertising firms and commercial clients in art studios like The Cartoonists and the S. Frederick Anderson Studio, before forming her own independent art studio in 1956. Throughout her life, Maliarik’s artistic pursuits varied. She worked across several mediums (including wood carving and metal welding) but her work in stoneware sculptures is most well-known. At her home kiln, Maliarik created figurative sculptures of people and animals.
Her husband attributed her artistic skill to her experience with deaf parents; “She learned at a young age the importance of visual communication and the impact it has on everyday life.” [Obituary via Chicago Tribune.] This influence is, perhaps, most visible in her glazed or painted stoneware sculptures. Each of these playful pieces, of varying size, reveals Maliark’s skillful storytelling. Capturing moments both mundane and meaningful, the charm of her work is in the expressive faces and the poses that convey movement. Most of Maliarik’s work is held in private collections, but pieces auctioned via Christie’s may be viewed online in four lots, including Women in Pursuits, Men in Pursuits, Body Builders and Hollywood Figures, and Groups of Couples Dancing.
Frank Dudley (1868-1957)
[The video above, produced by Chicago Tonight in 2015, explores Dudley’s work and discusses his involvement in Indiana Dunes preservation efforts.]
Perhaps most well-known for his dedication to the conservation of the Indiana Dunes, Frank Dudley was an accomplished painter that used art as activism. The eldest of three boys, Dudley was raised by deaf parents in Delavan, Wisconsin. He started in the decorative arts as an apprentice in his father, James’ business, painting houses, and fitting window glass. Beginning with drawing and painting lessons after graduation, Frank took courses at the Art Institute of Chicago. As a young man, he worked in several art forms, teaching lessons in watercolor, ink, and crayon, and working in photography shops. In 1902, Frank completed a painting of the Wisconsin School for the Deaf for his father commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the school.
Dudley became involved with the Dunes Conservation Movement, an effort to preserve and protect the Indiana Dunes, a natural formation on the southern shore of Lake Michigan. Frank’s participation in this movement led him to focus almost entirely on landscape paintings of the dunes. His work contributed to the creation of the Indiana Dunes State Park in 1923. Two of Dudley’s paintings are on display at the Aram Public Library in Delavan, Wisconsin, others are held in a number of private and public collections. Learn more about Dudley’s work and influence in the video above (captions available) and in The Indiana Dunes Revealed; The Art of Frank V. Dudley.
Pierce Starre (1984- )
[/hɪə/ from Pierce Starre on Vimeo. This video Filmed and Edited by Cristi-Adrian Andrei features Starre’s “/hɪə/“ piece performed at the Divine Locale Contemporary Art Festival in 2017.]
Coda identity has featured prominently in the work of Pierce Starre, an artist living in the U.K. Drawing on his experience as the son of two deaf parents, Starre has used artwork to explore the boundaries of deafness and hearingness in several ways. In a 2016 photography exhibit, “I Feel: You See,” he probed the relationship between deaf people and music at The New Art Exchange. In an interview, Starre explained, “My photography exhibition is a bridge into allowing the hearing world to experience Deaf culture without the embarrassment that may be felt when encountering a Deaf person in real life. Maybe this work will give insight; maybe it will break down the fear and encourage hearing people to think about exploring BSL further.”
His performance art piece, “hɪə,” featured in the video above, was another attempt to explore the experience of his identity as a hearing person. The title, a phonetic representation of the homophones “here” and “hear,” represented his effort to fully commit to an embodied experience. For two weeks, as part of the Divine Locale Contemporary Art Festival, Starre sat silently and unmoving in a gallery for eight hours each day, allowing visitors to engage with him and other artworks. By covering his eyes with a green blindfold, Starre restricted his experience to only auditory listening and prevented himself from engaging with the world in any form of visual or spoken communication. For more information on current and upcoming works, follow Starre via his website, facebook, and twitter.
Frank Gallimore (1978- )
Finally wrapping up this portrait of the legendary Andrew Foster for the upcoming National Black Deaf Advocates conference in August. Check it out in Baltimore and bid for it in the silent auction. You can also see me painting there live all week! . . . . . . . . #nbda #andrewfoster #deaf #legend #leader #educator #gallimore #instaart #creative_uprising #portrait #oilpainting #props #hero
[Gallimore often shares his work on Instagram. This piece, memorializing Andrew Foster, a pioneer of deaf education, is a wonderful example of Gallimore’s ability to create beautiful artworks layered with meaning.]
As the only hearing member of his family, in an interview with KODAheart, Frank Gallimore attributed his passion for art to his upbringing. “I started creating art out of admiration for my big brother… I wanted to be so much like him growing up. So when he started doodling, I started doodling.” As an adult his passion for art continued. After earning his Masters in Fine Arts in creative writing from Johns Hopkins, he studied at Watts Atelier in California.
Much of Gallimore’s artwork incorporates themes of Coda identity. This is most clear in a series of comics he created that explored koda and koda camp experiences. More recently, his work in oil paint has included the depiction of notable deaf leader, Andrew Foster, and a young girl signing “C-O-D-A.” When KODAheart asked Gallimore about the subjects he chose, he shared, “In both my writing and my painting there’s a lot of nostalgia and memory and reflection. But I think that the painting has a lot more to do with body, with physicality, with animals, texture… a lot of my painting is a way of tapping back to that physicality of memory. Not necessarily linguistically. So there’s a bit of a line between poetry and art in that sense.” Learn more about Gallimore’s artistic process at his blog. View his artwork at website, frankgallimore.com, where he welcomes questions and/or commissions from visitors. Follow him on Instagram to view his process in real time.
Heather Gallagher (1985- )
A family and birth editorial photographer based in Austin, Texas, Heather Gallagher studied Photography and Art History at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn, New York. In an interview with KODAheart, she explained, photography offered an outlet for the exploration of people’s stories. Her passion for visual communication grew out of her upbringing. Born in Maryland, Gallagher was raised (with her brother) by her deaf mother and hearing father. She shared, “Seeing how my mom communicated with the world at large… I became very interested in being able to communicate with people in a universal way… Growing up around sign language and the deaf community… I love to focus in on the micro-expressions, and the subtle movements of touching the small of someone’s back… It just speaks to so much. And that to me is a universal language.”
Her work has included images of deaf-koda family dynamics as well. In 2007, her senior thesis was an exploration of deaf-koda family life. The exhibit showcased photos of kodas at home. In order to capture the intimate family moments between parents and children, Heather traveled to the midwest and visited several families she had met as a camp counselor. She stayed with each family for several days at a time documenting their interactions together and alone. “In my efforts to highlight the unique culture of kodas, what I ended up with were images that showed just how normal their lives are. It was important for me to see that and capture it as proof. It was more of a self-exploration than anything else, I realized.” To see more of her work, visit her website, or follow her on facebook and Instagram.
Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968)
French artist, Marcel Duchamp was a painter and sculptor whose work was influential in the Cubist, Dada, and Conceptual art movements. He was born and raised in France with six siblings, four of whom were also artists. His mother became deaf later in life and “was most likely deaf at the time of his birth.” [The Artist’s Mind, pg. 73] Art Historians have suggested that his relationship with his mother may have driven him to explore themes of connection and separation in his art. His piece, “Sonata,” painted in the Cubist style, depicted his sisters reading and playing instruments with their mother seated in the background at the center. As Jerrold Seigel suggests, “painting a deaf person in a musical scene cannot avoid calling attention to her separateness.” [The Private Worlds of Marcel Duchamp, pg. 20, 22]. This work certainly suggests that Duchamp was questioning the boundaries of deaf and hearing experiences through art.
Later in his life, Duchamp moved into areas of conceptual art, exploring the boundaries between art and everyday objects. As pictured in his piece above, he disrupted ideas about artistic production and commercially produced objects using practical, everyday objects [Learn more via Museum of Modern Art] View more of his artworks via the Museum of Modern Art].
Kate Fitzpatrick (1984- )
Kate Fitzpatrick is an artist from Indianapolis, Indiana. She was raised, with two sisters, by deaf parents who used ASL at home. She studied Fine Art at Ball State University and the Savannah College of Art and Design, completing her BFA in Film and Television. Using art markers, and more recently acrylic painting and digital painting, Fitzpatrick creates delicate, colorful images of animals and figures.
When the KODAheart team asked Fitzpatrick about the Coda themes that emerge in her work, she shared, “I do occasionally incorporate Coda/Deaf themes … I’ve started doing an annual Mother Father Deaf illustration for the CODA Conference Auction, I have my Chapel Hall illustration (and would love to do more coda/deaf landmark illustrations in the future), and of course, I’ve been drawing and painting ILY hands since I was about seven. One of my favorite coda/deaf pieces is a pattern that I enlisted my family in creating. I asked each of them to draw an ILY hand in their own style, then I edited the results into a vibrant pattern. I love it because I see my whole family represented in it.” To see more of her work, and bring a print of her work into your own home, visit her store and website.
James Van Manen (1966- )
James Van Manen was born in Sonoma, California. He grew up in Wisconsin, California, Michigan and Iowa with deaf parents (father, mother, and stepfather) and his older, hearing brother. He studied education at the University of Northern Iowa and earned his MA and PhD from Gallaudet University. Since 1990, however, a passion for art, however, drew him to graphic arts classes and the pursuit of research on art history. In 2012 and 2014, he published texts in his Deaf Artist Series, exploring the work of deaf artists Ann Silver and Nancy Rourke.
Outside of his deaf art history contributions, Van Manen has produced works in wire sculpture and acrylic paint. He shared with the KODAheart team that his art always includes coda/deaf themes, “All of the artwork I make has Deaf themes in it. Some of the work also has Coda themes. I have made many pieces that use hands and handshapes from ASL and have made several pieces that say coda in one way or another.” In his recent art show, “ASL Pop Art” at Columbia College Chicago he displayed some of these works alongside collaborative work he created with Ann Silver. To learn more about his books on deaf art history, see http://www.empyrealpress.com/author-information/.
Laurent “Milouz” Hamelin
A self-taught French artist, Milouz, founded TSFcrew, a talented team that produces large-scale street art in urban settings. His work was showcased at the Dubai Canvas 3D Art Festival in 2017, with a number of other world-famous street artists (see a photo of his contribution here). In this and in other pieces, Milouz creates illusion 3D pieces that use existing features like the floor, ceiling, walls, and other aspects of the surroundings, to create exciting and energetic works of art.
While much of his public work includes large-scale street-art, Milouz also does figurative drawings. His sketches and other artwork are featured on his instagram account. Some include studies of hands and handshapes, suggesting that he brings his knowledge of LSF and his Coda experience to his artwork. Follow his work on instagram.
Tommy Gallagher (1983- )
Tommy Gallagher is a digital artist and fine artist from Maryland. He was raised near DC with his younger sister, by his white American hearing father and Asian immigrant deaf mother. He studied at Savannah College of Art and Design, earning his BFA in 2005. That same year, Gallagher exhibited his work at the DCAC Gallery in Washington, DC.
This exhibition, “A Peep Show” which shared space with sister, Heather Gallagher, included a narrative series in which he explored his experience as a koda. These works blended figurative drawings with watercolor designs and handwritten pieces. Each image, like the one pictured here, depicted members of his family and community, included representations of sign language, and interrogated aspects of deaf and hearing cultures. View his work at his website, http://yenismymom.com/.
Art is a means of communicating to the world. We often use it to share and present our experiences to the world, but we also imbue it with our worldview. Whether Coda Art includes overt representations of a unique linguistic and cultural experience, or it highlights other subjects or features, the artwork produced by members of the deaf community offer insights on the history and culture of our community! Do you know of more Coda artists to highlight? Share them with us via email- oneKODAheart@gmail.com!