The Heist eGallery is an online exhibition space showcasing a wide range of visual artwork. The gallery opened during mental health week in 2011. Heist was created in response to barriers artists with a disability face in getting their artwork into exhibitions.
Heist’s purpose is to provide professional development opportunities for artists with a disability and see their work reach a wider audience. The gallery is run by Arts Access Victoria (AAV). Established in 1974 AAV aims to build strong community-based partnerships to grow and support arts programs for people with a disability.
Art can have a significant impact on the lives of people with disabilities. Many people find meaning and inspiration in art. It can also provide healing and tranquillity. Julie Reid, long time AAV artist and Heist exhibitionist says,
Art allows me to give voice to things that words often fail, it allows other ideas to enter and reconnects me with those parts of myself I thought I’d lost.
Heist has exhibitions with different themes. The sites current offering is Disclosure. Kath Duncan, Heist curator and artist says,
This exhibition is on the intersections between identities and creativities. The display delves into who people with a disability tell about their differences and why, while examining ways a disability might affect the creativity and physical approach an artist brings to their work.
The Disclosure exhibition also serves to begin a discussion. Kath Duncan says Disclosure poses many questions such as
Are we artists with disability, disabled artists, or are we artists foremost and our disabilities unimportant?
Disability identity and art
Heist artist Jacqueline King developed complex post traumatic stress disorder (CPTSD) after she experienced severe trauma at work and early in her life. The glass sculptures she creates radiate colour and beauty. They explore the fragility and diversity of life. Her work reflects nature with themes of renewal and recovery.
I develop works exploring the creation of beauty from shattered parts, a metaphor for my own re-established self-identity and healing from CPTSD, Kings says.
Through her work she hopes to, “provide a platform for discussion around PTSD and a feeling of inclusion for those who also suffered injury as a result of extreme trauma”.
Alyssa Black, who is 23, has been diagnosed with anorexia nervosa, body dysmorphic disorder and obsessive compulsive disorder. Her interest in art started during a long hospital stay when she began drawing as a distraction from treatment.
in my art I explore themes and issues surrounding beauty ideals, body weight, eating and food.
Heist has given Black Invaluable exposure but she says
more important to me was the opportunity to be part of an exhibition that explored disability, identity and art in a meaningful way.
King and Black’s work is featured in Disclosure. The exhibition includes comments by exhibiting artists. Disclosure is an open exhibition with artwork continually being added.
Disability and Inspiration
Disclosure examines if a disability can enhance an artist’s work.
my passion as an artist living with CPTSD spurs me to keep finding a more defined voice in my work.
She also thinks
each life is unique with unique challenges and strength can be found amongst these challenges. King adds, her drive to
create art is inherent in my nature regardless of my disability rather than because of it.
Disclosure also asks whether artists with a disability use their differences as inspiration.
Being an artist with a disability means I have to find ways of working around my limitations, says Black.
But more than anything else it has given me a unique worldview, allowing me to see the artistic issues that interest me from an individual perspective. She continues,
disability has allowed me to see importance in issues that may not have been explored in art extensively before.