Crip aesthetics in the work of Persimmon Blackbridge

Authored by: Ann Millett-Gallant

The Routledge Handbook of Disability Arts, Culture, and Media

Print publication date:  December  2018
Online publication date:  December  2018

Print ISBN: 9780815368410
eBook ISBN: 9781351254687
Adobe ISBN:


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Persimmon Blackbridge is a disabled, female artist whose multimedia work exhibits what I call ‘Crip Aesthetics.’ In this chapter, I will describe ‘Crip Aesthetics’ as visual and conceptual elements that constitute a style Blackbridge shares with other contemporary disabled artists, specifically in artworks that manifest a ‘crip’ identity of the artists and/or of the subject depicted. My notion of ‘Crip Aesthetics’ draws from theories surrounding the term ‘crip,’ and more specifically, the use of this term to analyse visual culture, specifically in Carrie Sandahl (2003), Robert McRuer (2006), and Alison Kafer (2013), as well as from Tobin Siebers’ Disability Aesthetics (2010). ‘Crip,’ as a noun and a verb, has been developed by theorists who draw from queer theory and terminology. Like queer, crip escapes binary definitions of disabled/non-disabled and reclaims and empowers the derogatory term ‘cripple,’ a one-dimensional epithet of disability, largely signifying misfortune and pity. First, I will summarise these scholars’ arguments and discuss what my use of the term ‘Crip Aesthetics’ derives from them. Then I analyse works by Blackbridge. The crip aesthetics I see operating in her works may be characterised as acknowledgement and incorporation of the viewer’s response to artworks; representations of the connections between impairment and disability; visible correlations drawn between the social and political status of disability with other markers of identity, such as gender, race, nationality, sexuality, and class; and visual expressions of pride. Many of Blackbridge’s works hyperbolise and celebrate the corporeal and social experiences of being different from the so-called ‘norm,’ or the majority, and they conceptualise camaraderie between disabled people.

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