Transcript from art piece:
My heart was absolutely pounding behind those double doors into the chapel. What am I saying, it’s still pounding even now, but that anticipation before I took those steps down the aisle, unforgettable. I’ve been waiting for this moment for years, ever since I met him. Well, even when I was a kid I used to dream of my wedding day, the way most little girls do. The fancy dress, the bridal chorus, all that attention from your closest friends and relatives. It always seemed like a dream.
The approach of my wedding did lead to some odd comments. Mainly about my appearance, which in what world is that appropriate? I’m sure people don’t even realize how rude they are being when they ask things like that. Most of the questions were along the lines of, aren’t I disappointed that I’ll need to carry my walker, do I think it will take away from the beautiful dress, didn’t I wish I had gotten those surgeries so I could stand up straight up on the altar1? They act like it’s a tragedy, but I wouldn’t have it any other way. Sure, maybe I don’t walk the way everyone else does. I’m slow, and some people may say I wobble, but it’s my way of walking. My movements are simply my own2. My walker doesn’t take away from my beauty, it adds to it. And I get to hear the wedding song play a little longer which is obviously a plus.
I look around at all the people looking at me. Every face I know so well, watching me make these important steps. I can barely look up at my soon to be husband. I know he’s crying, which I know will make me cry. We are both so emotional when it comes to this stuff, which is just one of the reasons why I love him. This is his first time seeing me in this dress. I picked it out with my mother months ago after visiting every shop in every town nearby. It’s perfect. It took longer than I would have liked for them to finish the alterations to ensure the perfect fit to my body, but in the end it was worth it. When I reach him, finally, and am standing across from him in front of the most important people in my life, I can’t help feeling lucky. In this moment, in this spot, in this dress, I feel entirely me. I feel at home, and I wouldn’t change a thing.
1. Reference to Sheila Blacks poem “What You Mourn”
2. Final line from Jennifer Bartlett’s poem “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY”
Write Up (613 words):
Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” discusses the feelings of a disabled woman whose body was surgically altered when she was young to straighten her body. The speaker mentions how a doctor told her “now you will walk/ straight on your wedding day”(Black, 3/4). This really stood out to me, and inspired my idea for my project. In response to this poem, I created a painting of a disabled woman on her wedding day accompanied by a short point of view writing of how she feels on this day using language from the poems we read in class, including “What You Mourn” and “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Jennifer Bartlett.
For my painting, I chose to paint a bride using a walker on an abstract background. I did this because I wanted the focus to be on the woman and her thoughts, and to show that she is deep in thought in this moment. When I first started this project, I spent a lot of time determining how I wanted to draw her. I wanted it to be clear she had a disability, but I wasn’t exactly sure how I should do that. I remembered what Kenny Fries said when I saw him speak. He told a story about how he modeled for a drawing, but was told that the final project didn’t make it clear he had a disability despite him thinking it looked exactly like him. The person judging the art piece had an idea of what a disabled body should look like, so the person wasn’t able to see the image for what it was. I looked up photos of disabled women who used walkers on their wedding day, and used these images for inspiration. Many of them looked like any other bride, just with a walker in front of them, which was usually decorated and had the bouquet attached. The final image I created was of a woman using a walker as she walked down the aisle to go along with the moment she is thinking about in the written portion.
For the point of view writing, I had a few more decisions to make. As someone who doesn’t have a physical disability, I wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting words into the mouth of my character. Instead, I tried to pull language and themes from some of our poets from this semester that described their movements and the way they felt about their body and disability. The poems I mainly pulled from were Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” and “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY” by Jennifer Bartlett. I also didn’t want to focus entirely on her disability because a criticism of the poems seemed to be on others’ focus on aesthetics despite the speaker’s personal feelings. I also didn’t think her disability would be the only thing she would be thinking about on her wedding day. I wanted the focus to be on the happiness she felt in the moment and how good she felt in her body, in contrast to how the speaker in “What You Mourn” described how she felt in her body. I also wanted to make a reference to the comment the doctor made in this poem to point out the way people seemed to care more about her appearance than the way the speaker felt.
My goals for this project was to respond the Sheila Black’s poem “What You Mourn” and portray a happy disabled woman on her wedding day. Because the poem talks about people focusing on her appearance while disregarding how she felt, I wanted to both include a visual photo and a written portion of how my character was feeling.
Black, Sheila. “What You Mourn.” dis/lit fall 2021, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/sheila-black.pdf. Accessed 2021..
Bartlett, Jennifer. “Five Poems from AUTOBIOGRAPHY.” dis/lit fall 2021, http://dislitfall21.chris-foss.net/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/Bartlett.pdf. Accessed 2021.
I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work. – Emily Malone