Affirmation Art in Deaf Art

In Deaf arts and movements, there are few patterns that viewers can observe: affirmation, disenfranchisement, and resistance which reflect experiences of Deaf artists (and Deaf people).

In the affirmation of art in Deaf art, works of art are about celebration and joy of experiences, such as our signed languages, Deafhood, visual culture, and such positive expressions.

The Nature of Language

Sign language is a common theme in affirmation art in Deaf art.

sign language art
Tiphaine Girault. "Pollution sonore" ("Sound pollution") (2007). Printmaking, 40cm x 15cm.

The work "Pollution Sonore" by Canadian-French Deaf artist Tiphaine Girault, the image shows an experience of the contrast between vocal-aural and visual-spatial languages.

The left side of the image represents desolate pollution of aural noises. On the other hand, the right portion describes sign language as joy and nature experienced by eyeing people. It feels open air and space that is easy to breathe in sign language. Sign language embodies an intimate experience of connection to nature through the use of the body.

Deaf artist Tiphaine Girault, born in Paris, France, lives in Gatineau, Quebec, Canada, with her partner. She moved to Canada from France in 1998. Her languages are (written) French and LSQ (Langue des signes québécoise) as her first languages; though, she also speaks in ASL with ASL speakers. She appreciates opportunities and cultural diversity of Canada.

Visual Culture

Another common theme in affirmation art is the eyes. Eyes are our mode of language and world as ears are hearing people's mode of language.

art by arada
(c) Iris Nelia Aranda. Photograph by Jolanta Lapiak with her permission at Milwaukee, 2008.

Panamanian-born American Deaf artist Iris Nelia Aranda referred her triptych work of art above to the experience of eyeing people whose world is visually-oriented and language is visual-manual. She added a third eye which can be interpreted in several ways. Visual is the center or the primary mode of the senses among eyeing people.

Some of her works depict a life experience as one of eyeing people. She described herself, "Born deaf, I experience the earth visually." She pays attention to lineal details of life and the natural world that she brings her observation into art.

The left and the right panels appear to be a subtle shape of the ears. Yet, eyes are placed within the shape of an ear. It suggests that people rely on the eyes as the primary means of communication and information in this world instead of using the ears.

Aranda received her masters of Applied Arts Design from the University of Panama in 1997.

More arts by Deaf artists are showcased here and there on this site.

Posted 2008, updated 2021.

Related posts

On the other side of affirmation art, there are also some disenfranchised art works and resistance actions against oppression.

I interesting the hamseter: a work of art by the Deaf artist Susan Duport.

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