By Lucia Viti
Diverse set of artists celebrate National Deaf Awareness Month
The Studio Door will celebrate National Deaf Awareness Month with its exhibition “Artistry Through Deaf Eyes,” an eclectic collection of iconic art created by 18 Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists from around the U.S.
The mixed media art show will kick off its three-week stint with a welcome reception on Saturday, Sept. 9 from 6-9 p.m. at the gallery, located at 3750 30th St. in North Park. It will close on Sept. 24.
“Artistry Through Deaf Eyes” will showcase photography, painting, sculptures, acrylics, oils and mixed media. Spearheaded by visual artist Jon Savage, the exhibit will underscore “diversity” from Deaf and hearing-impaired artists.
“I am Deaf,” Savage said. “I share my experiences through my art. ‘Artistry Through Deaf Eyes’ will celebrate the rich artistic traditions of Deaf contemporary artists.”
The Studio Door, owned and operated by resident artist Patric Stillman, is known as an “arts incubator dedicated to the creative marketplace and the promotion of contemporary artists.” Thrilled to “express the experience of being Deaf through art,” Stillman described the exhibit as a form of “Deaf pride that deals with empowerment, American Sign Language (ASL) and perceptions based upon the Deaf experience.”
“I’m excited to host Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists,” Stillman said. “The De’VIA (Deaf View/Image Art) movement, the pulse for this artistic community, feel compelled to speak, engage and connect people in a creative way. Their work runs the gamut, from celebrating oneself to an overview of the harsher realities faced by this community.”
Savage, a self-taught career artist, approached Stillman to curate a show dedicated to the creativity of Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists. Stillman agreed that it was a “brilliant idea,” stating that Deaf and hard-of-hearing artists share their unique experiences living in a hearing world, one “we often take for granted,” through their art. Spanning the U.S., artists were chosen from California, Colorado, Georgia, Maryland, New York, North Dakota, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C.
“‘Artistry Through Deaf Eyes’ is an artistic movement that captures the exhilaration and alienation of the Deaf community or any group not considered mainstream,” Stillman continued. “There’s an interesting and sensitive creativity posed by their view of living life as a Deaf person.”
Stillman added that show’s “incredible mixed media artwork” is empowering and optimistic. The work incorporates ASL with visuals, making it “universal and easy to understand.”
“Sadness doesn’t surround the Deaf and De’VIA artists,” he said. “I see a proud spirit that understands their uniqueness. The Deaf and hard-of- hearing community has a voice that deserves to be heard. Jon Savage, vivacious and larger than life, is committed to creativity and slick at marketing. He makes a great gallery partner.”
Stillman described Savage’s work as playful, dramatic and extremely graphic. Getting his message across void of fanfare, Savage’s photographic images placed into color fields often invites people into The Studio Door.
Fascinated by art since early childhood, Savage’s work includes media/visual arts, photography, video editing, cinematography, acting and painting. His work — graphic, pop-art paintings, replete with abstract bright colors and a clean-cut style — reflects his journey as a Deaf artist. Passionately devoted to educating Deaf people about the linguistic, social, political and cultural issues of the Deaf community, he defines his art as “activism” that educates society on the importance of recognizing and utilizing ASL.
“We’re looking for equity — the same as hearing artists,” he said. “‘Artistry Through Deaf Eyes’ will impact and inspire Deaf people to see artwork — by Deaf artists of all ages — to understand and relate to their experiences, good, bad or ugly. I motivate Deaf children to become receptive, expressive and fluent in ASL. I encourage the support of hearing parents. I encourage Deaf people to strive to achieve.”
Ask Savage what his goal is for the exhibit and he’ll quote John F. Kennedy.
“‘And so, my fellow Americans, ask not what your country can do for you — ask what you can do for your country,” he concluded. “My goal is to let Deaf people do for our community instead of our community doing what is best for Deaf people!”
The Deaf Community Services of San Diego will work as reception partners for “Artistry Through Deaf Eyes” to provide interpreters for introductions and conversations between the Deaf artists and patrons. QR codes will be staged to open YouTube videos of ASL + Closed Captions (CC) or ASL + Voice-over videos.
Stillman is no stranger to artistic success in painting, photography and digital media. His art has been exhibited at Musée du Louvre (Paris), in Miami Beach’s SCOPE, and throughout Southern California. In 2016, Stillman was named Mentor of the Year by Professional Artist Magazine.
Carving a “unique art-to-market perspective,” The Studio Door serves as an art gallery, an artistic studio and a classroom for art instruction and art-to-market programming. Partnering with regional artists and industry organizations, the gallery hosts national exhibitions, regional invitationals, and San Diego’s annual Open Studios Weekend. The Studio Door also publishes a biennial “50 To Watch” colored manual that highlights San Diego’s newly arrived and ever-so-popular visual artists. Sidling the gallery, Stillman operates the HYPE, a co-op art haven.
“I quickly realized the importance of community while on my creative path,” he said. “Community support propelled me to grow. I created The Studio Door to connect artists with community. Being an artist can be lonely. Work happens outside of your head. The Studio Door allows artists to network while learning the nuances of creative commerce and sharpening their skills and talents.
“I am the impetus behind my goal of supporting studio artists who support and encourage me.”
—Contact Lucia Viti at email@example.com.
Sara is the editor of San Diego Uptown News.