Christina Oyawale: Careworn & Coil

Let’s reevaluate our perceptions of private versus public life. I want you to understand that it’s not pretty, it’s raw, and it’s ugly. In the words of Mia Mingus, I would rather be “ugly—magnificently ugly” than “beautiful,” because I am flawed and sometimes need the space to remember that. I move on crip time, as breathing hurts from my ribs that have been inflamed for weeks. I move on crip time because I am too anxious to face the world today. So I stay in my space until I feel it is time to leave. I watch the seasons change from my window. I watch the sun kiss my pigmented skin. I’ve built my world for you, I’ve re-constructed my space.

Q&A

Could you tell us about any current projects that you are working on?

Careworn & Coil is my senior thesis that reflects my personal experiences as a Black, mad, and disabled artist attempting to document their life. The work focuses on cripping the arts through exhibiting my private life and my experiences with mental illness and chronic pain publicly, while running on the concept of crip time. My work does not seek to exist as a transaction with the viewer, but rather invites further dialogue surrounding ableism and human existence. Through the recounting of my own physical pain and discomfort, the audience is tasked with questioning if the conditions of ableism affect us all. I want able-bodied viewers to witness the humility behind my work and experiences, and to understand that despite anxiety, we should all prioritize the practice of restoration. Through this, we create space to deconstruct the effects of ableism on our society.Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like its final outcome to be.

Describe your project in its current state and what you’d like its final outcome to be.

As I continue planning to exhibit the work, I have begun to search for ways to make the work accessible—in terms of content matter, but also in how it can be consumed. Creating a space that replicates the essence and complexities of living as a spoonie with mental illness challenges notions of what a day-to-day life should look like. In a gallery setting, I replicate the feeling of occupying a bedroom, with images on the surrounding walls that reflect my space. There is a sense of isolation and confinement present in the work. The images and the room installation allow for viewers to feel the discomfort, crowded space, and emotional vulnerability of private versus public life. An indication of the passage of time is present in the images and the installation work to visualize the fatigue experienced on a daily basis. Disability aesthetics have been weaved into the work as an attempt to reinforce the importance of thinking of accessibility from a crip cultural perspective.

How did you reach the conceptualization of your current project?

I’ve spent most of my life struggling with mental health, but in the past three years that has contributed to major chronic pain and a weakening immune system. Due to this, I have become more and more interested in learning about disability justice and the intersections of art. Books such as Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century edited by Alice Wong and Care Work: Dreaming Disability Justice by Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha have contributed to the conceptualization of the project.

 Are there any artists that have inspired this work? If so, why?

Leah Lakshmi Piepzna-Samarasinha, Laurence Philomene, Liz Crow, Shannon Finnegan, Cindy Baker, and Joey Soloman are just a handful of artists whose work has inspired this work. I adore their raw approaches to photographing, creating, and writing about their personal experiences with disability. None of the works feel the same, and their work emulates the complexities of disability but also celebrates the beauties of crip culture and aesthetics.

Describe any challenges you have faced and any solutions that you have found to be helpful in the creative process.

Being vulnerable is extremely hard, but I feel like it’s healing in many ways.

Have you had any success in getting your work out into the world? Do you have suggestions for other artists?

Self-curate, celebrate each other, support each other, and create spaces that value interdependence.

The Importance of Artist Development Programming in Disability Arts

An Essay by Christina Oyawale

Christina Oyawale (b. 2000) is a Black non-binary disabled lens-based Tkaronto/Toronto artist, curator, artistic director, and music person, and does a really funny Björk impression. They are interested in themes that centre radical occupations of space and place, oftentimes exploring the human condition, human growth, rebirth, and investigations of self.

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