Although Kenneth Martin is confined to a wheelchair because of a spinal cord injury, his imagination knows no limits.
The independent living coordinator of L.I.F.E. Inc., a local nonprofit organization dedicated to helping disabled adults lead independent and productive lives, Martin enjoys painting in his spare time and hopes to become a full-time working artist one day.
“I love the freedom to express certain concepts in a visual form,” he said. “I like expressing universal experiences that people of all cultures can relate to.”
Martin’s richly detailed drawings and paintings are featured in “I Have Marks to Make.” The exhibit showcases the therapeutic power of art and is on display at the Telfair’s Jepson Center for the Arts. The exhibit includes more than 100 works, from paintings and photography to sculpture and collage, created by area residents of all ages and skill levels.
This exhibit marks the 14th consecutive year that the Telfair Museum of Art has partnered with local community organizations to showcase art created by individuals experiencing significant physical, neurological or emotional disabilities. Participating organizations, each of whom were invited to contribute 10 works, include the Rehabilitation Institute at Memorial University Medical Center, the Center for Rehabilitation at St. Joseph’s/Candler, the Goodwill Industries Second Chance Program, Union Mission and the Department of Veterans Affairs Savannah Primary Care Clinic.
“This is a very democratic show,” said Harry DeLorme, senior curator of education at the Telfair Museum of Art and organizer of the “Marks” exhibit. “It’s interesting to see how people use art to express themselves and to work through their challenges in life.”
Named after a painting and poem created by local artist Katherine Hartwig Dahl during her lengthy recovery from a traumatic brain injury, “I Have Marks to Make” celebrates art’s power to heal the body and the spirit.
The variety of art on display is rivaled only by the range of disabilities faced by the artists themselves. Lorraine Koenn, a brain injury survivor who has been helped by the Goodwill Industries Second Chance Program, exhibits a series of digital prints featuring symmetrical geometric designs inspired by fractal images and reminiscent of Indian mandalas.
Rosanna Williams, an autistic student at Windsor Forest High School who is part of the Savannah-Chatham Public Schools Department of Exceptional Children, created a painting entitled “God Save the World.” This dramatic, child-like composition depicts an angel flying above a city skyline, tossing down life rings to unseen residents below. Williams recently won a national Scholastic Art & Writing Award for an animated short film the Telfair Museum of Art screened at the exhibit’s opening reception earlier this month.
Some of the most interesting work on display has been created through the Telfair’s ongoing community outreach classes. A recent workshop at the Savannah Association for the Blind, for example, enabled visually-impaired local residents to create plaster casts using found objects like shells and clothespins. The hands-on activity served as a follow-up to the group’s special “touch tour” of the Telfair’s sculpture collection. The rich, varied textures in the patterned casts on display offer insight into the ways in which creativity can be guided by the sense of touch, rather than sight.
“This show has a much broader theme about the rehabilitative and therapeutic nature of art,” DeLorme said. “Art has the potential to bring great meaning to our lives.”
By Savannah Morning News