The World of Disabled Art

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Disability does not have to be a handicap to creativity. Many artists who are blind, or suffer from a physical or mental disability, still produce amazing work and have overcome great adversity to do so. Here’s a look at the work and lives of some disabled artists.

Stephen Wiltshire

Wiltshire is a world-renowned architectural artist and an autistic savant who learned to speak at the age of nine and began to draw complex sketches of London landmarks at the age of ten.

He has become known for his landscapes, including his most recent eighteen-foot wide panorama of New York City, which he created after seeing the city only once during a 20-minute helicopter trip.

Peter Longstaff

Peter Longstaff creates all his paintings using only his feet, having lost both of his arms after being exposed to the drug thalidomide which was prescribed for morning sickness before medics were aware of its potential to deform foetuses.

As he has lived without arms for so long, he views his right foot as most people would view their right hand and uses it to perform everyday tasks such as opening doors. Before taking to art he worked on a pig farm where he drove tractors and handled animals. He joined the Association of Mouth and Foot painting artists as a student – he specialises in painting landscapes and makes Christmas cards.

Keith Salmon

Salmon is registered blind and has climbed over 100 Munros (Scottish mountains) which have served as the inspiration for much of his artwork. He won the Jolorno award for his paintings of Scottish landscapes in 2009.

When he moved to Ayrshire in 1998, he developed his work in two different styles – organised scribbles which form drawings and bold, broad marks in both oil and acrylic paintings. He has moved towards combining these in recent years, with the aim of ‘trying to capture a little of how I [Salmon] experience these wonderful wild places’.

Alice Schonfeld

Alice Schonfeld is a sculptor who has suffered multiple strokes in the 1990s and has diminished capacity as a result. In addition to her sculpting work in Italian Marble, she has become an inspiring figure for the disabled community through her work to raise awareness of disabled artists.

At one point, Schonfeld’s strokes nearly ended her artistic career. She overcame this by adapting to her environment using a variety of visual reminders, and has gone on to produce many of her most notable works.

Michael Monaco

A quadriplegic who paints with his mouth, Monaco was injured in a car accident in 1979 at the age of 16. Since then, he has learned to perform many different daily tasks with his mouth, including using a wheelchair and signing cheques.

He developed his talent for painting after first learning how to use a pencil in his mouth while in occupational therapy, and is also a member of the Association of Mouth and Foot painting artists.

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Deputy Editor 2017-18, International Editor 2015-17. Languages student adjusting to being back in the UK after a year in Chile. Interested in Latin America, world news, media and politics.

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