Maria Medina-Schechter

As a recipient of the 2020 Arts and Accessibility program from the National Arts and Disability Center (NADC), my artistic goals included having my work purchased and placed in healing and rehabilitation centers throughout California and beyond. The Arts and Accessibility Grant allowed me access to my goals. Prints of my work were purchased by the Seneca Center of California. Due to COVID-19, I was not able to show my 2020 body of work last year. However, the Palo Alto Public Library recently had me update my contract with them, and I will be exhibiting the paintings in their library for the month of March 2022. An arts consultant working for commissions and purchase opportunities for artists invited me to apply for the new University of Pittsburgh Medical Center Vision and Rehabilitation Tower in Pennsylvania. I have submitted my request for qualifications and look forward to hearing from their team. Recently, I had the opportunity to exhibit in a group show with Blue Line Arts in Roseville, California.

My 2020 body of work Femme de Courage Extraordinaire (women of extraordinary courage) timeline was June 1, 2020 through November 29, 2020. I successfully created seven, 3x3ft oil and collage paintings on stretched canvas. The paintings highlight the young ladies who are shaping our world today through acts of courage, kindness, and compassion. I developed paintings of Simone Biles, Sophie Cruz, Marley Dias, Emma Gonzalez, Greta Thunberg, Malala Yousafza, and Autumn Peltier because of the range of diversity in ethnicity, age, and topics each individual addresses in their own work. The advocacy work these girls do affects people around the world every day. These young ladies ranged in age from 6 to 21 when they began advocating on the behalf of others for significant social issues such as sexual assault, climate change, immigration rights, racism, and gun control.

I chose this theme primarily due to working through my own adversities after becoming disabled after a car accident on January 5 2018. For the last 3 years I have been in recovery and rehabilitation. This meant three years of physical therapy, five surgeries, plus one more upcoming, a second surgery on my right arm, specifically my elbow. Since developing Femme de Courage Extraordinaire my process has changed dramatically and that is due to limitations in my arms and hands. While creating my last painting, I tore the muscle in my elbow from the bone so my arms and hands are not strong. I continue to meet boundaries in my work and move through them. I have found that working on one painting and one sculpture allows the muscles in my arms and hands to heal between use. The work I do with my hands as a painter is quite different than how I use my hands as a sculptor. Painting has me blending oils with dry medium brushes and working small areas for several minutes to hours at a time while sculpture allows me to use the base of my hands, forearms and body weight to push, pull, and work the clay. This gives my painting hands and configurations a rest while I push clay with my body.

I applied for this grant because two years had passed and I had not been able to create new work because my arms were recovering from surgeries. I felt the grant would allow me the opportunity to revisit my work and allow me to work at my own pace, to learn as I go and foster the courage to be an artist with a disability. This allows me to continue to articulate my vision of healing. At this point in my career, I had no paintings to show, no new works, nothing in progress except healing. I am learning that healing is an ongoing process. With each day I move ever closer to the light I wish to share with the world, illuminations of kindness, courage, and compassion.

My disability has influenced my work with themes of healing, ritual, and practice. The Arts and Accessibility program has allowed me the ability to challenge myself by creating my first body of work post-surgery. I learned how to work with my limitations and allow myself the ability to push my own boundaries. My career has grown in ways I did not think possible during my initial phase of recovery. I feel the arts and accessibility grant gave me the courage to give my first artist talk since becoming disabled. My work has shown in nine exhibitions in 2020, which is more than I have ever shown in one year. In addition, I have been able to use resources provided to us because of the grant to streamline my artist statement, my artist resume, and my website.

My greatest accomplishment was exhibiting my painting of Amanda Gorman: 5x4ft. oils, collage and resin on gallery wrapped canvas. The accomplishment is that I temporarily live in a republican part of the United States. I was the only person who exhibited a painting of an African-American woman. This is how the audience saw my painting. In addition, I brought a guest with me to the opening. My friend and her two-year-old son were the only African-Americans in a room of approximately 50-60 guests. Likely, I was the only Mexican in the room. I developed my artist talk in a way to share Amanda Gorman’s amazing power of words and expression of movement in her hands. I asked the audience if they knew who Amanda Gorman was and not one person raised their hand or gave any indication that they knew who she is. Then I asked if anyone had ever watched her read her poems on YouTube to make the approach less political and more about the power of art. While our entire nation does know her, there are many who refuse to see the light she is sharing with the world. When Amanda Gorman read her poem The Hill We Climb at the inauguration, I felt hope again. Art is a revolutionary tool containing the power to change minds and that includes my own. I am grateful for the opportunity I was given with the arts and accessibility grant and will continue to illuminate those who wish to share good with the world. I will continue to do the same.