These are some current works-in-progress from our studio. Please support our continued work on the “Hypermobility” series by buying prints from our Etsy shop.
Hypermobility, Artist Statement
MANDEM is a collaborative disabled/neurodiverse artist triad, one of whom lives with the genetic disorder Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS) that causes failure of connective tissue. The Hypermobility painting series recenters that disability as a form of beauty through its interrogation of representational painting tradition. Using studio models with connective tissue disorders such as EDS, the series captures moments where joints hyperextend or dislocate and the body moves into broken-seeming, impossible configurations. Our technique-oriented mixed media/oil paintings explode the line between medical documentation, protest, and art. This evolving series began during our artist residencies in Italy and England, where we focused on exploring the classical realist tradition and disability erasure in the Western art canon. Now working in an urban Rust Belt studio, the series has expanded to explore paintings as a form of performance, textual integration, and the validity of representing and claiming the body in a postmodern world. The paintings on canvas are in dialog with figure painting in order to show disabled bodies as valid and beautiful, overcoming the absence of respectfully-represented disabled bodies in the Western art cannon. When the work is displayed as a site-specific mixed-media installation, the canvases are “knit” into the walls and floors of the gallery and connected by umbilical cords of yarn and paint, exploring the poetics of disability in dialog with fiber art, textiles, and soft sculpture. The installation carries competing voices about disability ranging from personal testimonies about inaccessibility, dis/ableism apologetics, emotional responses from the disabled point of view, and prose relating the disabled experience to private mythology — texts written, erased, re-written, painted over, scratched out, and finally left as a palimpsest of chaotic noise. In the end, these images look to find a moment of (self) creation in the embrace of a disabled body and in the transformation of labor/pain into beauty. As art objects, though, their larger goal is to reinsert disabled bodies into the often-inaccessible homes of art and mythology and to reassert our agency and right to exist.
MANDEM is a media-fluid artist triad. Their work frequently examines the visceral body while in critical dialogue with art history and mythology. They recently completed residencies at Il Palmerino (Florence, Italy) and Negative Space Gallery (Cleveland, Ohio). MANDEM serves as the visual arts editor for The Deaf Poets Society, a journal of deaf and disabled art and literature. Their ongoing painting series, Hypermobility, has received grants from the Ohio Arts Council and the Lippman Kanfer Foundation, and it has exhibited in Italy, England, Canada, and the U.S.