Deaf culture art is a cultural art that reaches both positive and negative ends of the spectrum unlike any other. You can learn so much about the Deaf simply by seeing the artwork that Deaf Culture produces.
Deaf people have experienced many negative life changing events throughout history. They’ve been strongly oppressed and labeled as “non-humans” in the early centuries and even have been forbidden to sign.
Deaf people have also experienced the strong positive connection and community when learning sign language for the first time–like finally finding the light in a dark tunnel.
All of these positive and negative life experiences of the Deaf can and have been expressed through Deaf Art. The effects of the world on the Deaf can clearly be seen in how Deaf artists express themselves on canvas.
My favorite Deaf artist is Chuck Baird. I believe his art truly glorifies ASL and accurately portrays its beauty. One of my favorite pieces is shown to the left. The sign for “art” is combined with an array of the various art mediums in this piece.
ASL is a visual language and is not written. So, it would seem obvious that the Deaf would be very keen on the visual arts. There are many famous Deaf artists who have continually and accurately portrayed the Deaf experience on their media of choice. Deaf culture itself is even passed down “verbally” through storytelling, theater, and performances–not through books like the hearing culture.
One of my favorites in the Deaf Art medium is Ameslan Prohibited by Betty G. Miller. It is shown in the picture on the right. Betty truly portrays how Deaf people felt when signing was forbidden.
The best website for Deaf culture art is Deaf Art/Deaf Artists. This website includes many, if not all, of the famous Deaf artists and their work. You will gain more of an understanding of Deaf culture and the Deaf world than anyone could ever tell you.
Deaf culture art is more than just a painting or a drawing. It brings the Deaf community together. Deaf culture art puts the feelings that many Deaf people experience on canvas.
The strong negative and strong positive feelings that are shows in art of the Deaf are usually not felt only by the artist. These feelings are widespread throughout the Deaf community. Looking into Deaf art, you can look into the heart of a Deaf person.
The Best Deaf Culture Art Books
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We have searched for all the best Deaf art books. We highly recommend all the books listed below:
Deaf Artists in America: Colonial to Contemporary
This book was long overdue. We do not know of any other book that focuses on the beauty of the visual arts created by Deaf people in such a magnificent way. We highly recommend this book, first and foremost, if you are interested in learning more about Deaf art.
Pictures in the Air: The Story of the National Theatre of the Deaf
This is a great book about how the National Theatre of the Deaf (NTD) was started. It recounts the struggles the founders went through, the controversy with oralism versus sign language, as well as meetings with many famous Deaf actors and actresses. This is a must-read for anyone wishing to be involved in ASL or Deaf Theatre.
Deaf American Literature: From Canival to the Canon
Literature is very prominent in Deaf Culture, and this book greatly explains the Deaf Literature movement and the implications of it as well as how the Deaf artists and performers jumped between two languages and cultures during this movement. We recommend it!
Angels and Outcasts: An Anthology of Deaf Characters in Literature
This book is a great compilation of Deaf literature from the nineteenth and twentieth centuries as well as from Deaf authors. It gives a great insight into Deaf culture and the arts therein.
Deaf Proverbs: A Proverbial Professor’s Points to Ponder
We also recommend this book for any ASL student. This book is another compilation of writings from many authors. They delve mostly into topics surrounding Deaf identity, how Deaf identity intersects with sexuality, family, gender, race, and disability, and how Deaf culture shows insight to issues of language, identity, power, and society’s view of normalcy.
What is your favorite Deaf art?
Do you have a favorite Deaf artist, piece of artwork, or book? Share in the comments below!