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ArtAbility Gives a Recognizable Voice to People with a Disability Who All Too Often Go Unheard

Published: 2013-10-29 - Updated: 2014-03-13
Author: David W Bedwell ACAA

Synopsis: Article outlining the Exhibition Kelly Speaking comprising art works by award winning artist Anthony Joy.

Main Digest

If you can't sketch but love art go visit a museum and write an essay about the paintings that's the advice an art master gave me years ago at school. Thanks to the artist Anthony Joy and his inspirational work please enjoy the introduction to my "ArtAbility®" trilogy of articles.


Today I am working on site at the gloriously located Tweed River Art Gallery in Northern New South Wales in Australia. The Gallery overlooks the Tweed Valley which in turn is overlooked by Mount Warning, and the sun is shining through the windows into this famous gallery.

Can you imagine the white walls of the Gallery and a series of 12 works 100cm wide of various depths? Nothing unusual there you might think but take a closer look at the image behind the glass. There are words and phrases written over the painted original images. I read the words within each work they left me feeling privileged to have been given the opportunity of sharing an interpretation of vision through the words of a lady called Kelly whom I discovered is a 43 year old lady with a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

We have entered the Exhibition "Kelly Speaking " comprising works by the Award winning artist Anthony Joy. Let's find out more! And enjoy the experience on the way.

But firstly please consider this narrative from the artist Anthony Joy

"Letter to Barb" is an acquisition at the Lismore Regional Gallery Lismore NSW - Photo ©Anthony Joy
"Letter to Barb" is an acquisition at the Lismore Regional Gallery Lismore NSW - Photo ©Anthony Joy

"When people see something that appears totally irrational or doesn't make sense, once you know the story or the experience of the person, it becomes logical and totally makes sense. Just like a typical person with typical intellect who can't understand something sometimes makes something up which is not logical at the time. It is inquiring as to what our perception of intelligence is and the impact this has on cultures i.e. when a logical explanation for something makes sense to most people then we can go on believing the myth even though it may not be true or fact. It is like love, we prefer the romantic story about it but often we don't like the science, we hold onto the romantic ideals rather than the actual facts in a lot of circumstances( we prefer a good story rather than the reality). I don't want to change things, or make people feel uncomfortable; I just want people to accept that this is the way it is."

"While Kelly's intellect is supposed to be rather low, her achievements that are often great, go unnoticed. Kelly's letter to her sister is a monumental piece of work for someone with her intellectual disability. The whole exhibition was about exploring intellect." Anthony Joy; 2013 The Photo below shows in the background The Award Winning Work "Letter to Barb" by Anthony it is a portrait of his partner Judith upon which Kelly's words from her letter to her sister in Queensland saying she is too upset to go home after the death of both her parents are written. Kelly wanted to stay with Judith and Anthony and say goodbye to her mum and dad as they were "In the ground and crying" because they could not see her anymore.

"Letter to Barb" is an acquisition at the Lismore Regional Gallery Lismore NSW

Anthony believes his works explore Kelly's intellect and thoughts which he describes as "Curiously Pragmatic" possibly "Totally Irrational" yet not necessarily "Illogical" Hence the collective title of "Kelly Speaking " was chosen as it is representative of her communicating an emotion that is unique, cryptic, poetic, beautiful, amusing, or something that sometimes just happens.

Just a Thought by Anthony Joy ©Anthony Joy
Just a Thought by Anthony Joy ©Anthony Joy

I have included another image from "Kelly Speaking " so please enjoy "Just a Thought." Whilst looking consider that Kelly says whenever we say the word "Think" "Don't think too hard it may hurt" Pretty sound advice don't you agree

Looking at each picture in turn and identifying the subject vision and the text left me with a feeling of empathy with Kelly and all the emotions expressed in the style of being her personal life related message accompanying each image. Maybe I was fooling myself? Or maybe not? Surely there are no rules to interpretation, and representation of vision through disability and Kelly's poignant words will inspire others to be heard.

As the gallery was closing I returned for one last view of "Kelly Speaking " as the sun was setting it was even more inspirational than the first time. Quite amazingly I have almost by chance re-discovered the motivation, and subjectivity to start writing my disability awareness articles again so please find the time to read the latest Trilogy of "ArtAbility®" articles and importantly try to take a look at Anthony's work I am certain you will be inspired, just as I was and then you will understand why more recognition worldwide is urgently needed for less abled persons and how Art can give a recognizable voice to people who all to often go unheard.

This work "Just a Thought " from the Kelly Speaking Exhibition was chosen by the Tweed River Art Gallery after Anthony generously offered the donation of whatever selected work the Gallery wished from his exhibition would be presented to the Gallery.

The work "Letter to Barb " is an acquisition at The Lismore Regional Gallery Lismore NSW. So now there are permanently displayed inspirational images in both Galleries for everyone to admire.

My thanks are due to Anthony and Judith for their input into the article and to them both together with Kelly for allowing me to include their images and artworks, and to The Amazing Tweed River Art Gallery.

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Cite This Page (APA): David W Bedwell ACAA. (2013, October 29). ArtAbility Gives a Recognizable Voice to People with a Disability Who All Too Often Go Unheard. Disabled World. Retrieved September 22, 2021 from