Last Summer, GoggleWorks partnered with Abilities in Motion, a Berks County-based nonprofit which helps individuals with disabilities live independent, self determined lives, to bring you an exhibition called My Disability Story. The exhibition took place in GoggleWorks’ Studio 240 and online over two weeks in honor of the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990 (ADA). The opening day of the exhibition was planned to coincide with the exact date of the anniversary of the ADA, July 26th. This exhibition is held annually to highlight the culturally diverse artistic talent of people with disabilities within our local community.
Art often serves as a medium to explore ideas and emotions not easily expressed, and allows individuals to develop a sense of identity. For individuals with disabilities, the act of creating can present its own unique challenges. Despite those challenges, artists with disabilities can find success in their craft through adaptations, technology, and outside-the-box thinking. Participating in a larger art community through a group art show can be an avenue for constructive feedback, encouragement, and motivation. Sharing artwork with others can be a truly transformative experience.
One standout artist from last year’s exhibition has created a website and begun selling her artwork after participating in the show. Meet LornaBeth Shantz, an artist who explored multiple career paths, expecting to struggle to create artwork, only to find that she has a knack for drawing, and that she could use art in her spiritual practice to explore and share the beauty that life offers.
“Snowdrops” LornaBeth Shantz, 2020.
Just when you think winter will never end, in the middle of February, the snowdrops make their appearance. They will even hide under the snow. If you know where to look, if you pay attention and watch, you can see them when you would think there is only cold and death. Life has its seasons. Lupus is a relapsing and remitting disease. When I have more difficult times, I remember the snowdrops. The snowdrops inspire me to keep looking, even in those difficult times, for the beauty that lies hidden to those who don’t look. –LornaBeth on Snowdrops, a piece she exhibited in My Disability Story
- Why did you choose to submit your work to the Abilities In Motion “My Disability Story” exhibition?
I had begun working on my art and sharing it with my friends earlier in the year. One of my friends, Diana Vavreck, who works with [Abilities] in Motion, alerted me to the exhibition and encouraged me to submit some of my work and my story. It was a new thought that I might want to try submitting my work, but immediately I wondered, “why not?” So I tried it. I was excited to have my work included in the show and to be a part of celebrating the work of the disability community in art.
- When did you first become interested in art, and how has that interest developed to bring you where you are today?
I first became aware of art as a child. When our parents read to us they always included the author and artist as part of the story. We talked about the pictures and how they were made. It was exciting to think that an actual person had made those pictures. I admired the writers and the artists. In school I enjoyed studying art but did not think I was any good at it. Then, while going back to school in search of alternatives for employment as a disabled person, I needed to take an art studio class. I expected to struggle. Instead I had an excellent teacher who clicked with me. By the end of the course I had been told numerous times that I was talented. That improved my confidence to keep trying. As a retired person I now have the opportunity to revisit my art and to develop it.
- How was your experience showing your work in the “My Disability Story” exhibition? Has your perspective or focus in creating changed at all since then?
I enjoyed taking part in the show. I received some good feedback and felt part of a larger community. The art show was encouragement that it could mean something beyond just myself and my personal enjoyment. Since that time I have continued to work and share my art. I received repeated requests to sell my work. My work is now up on a web page where it is available for sale. My focus is on celebrating the things that bring me joy in life and in spreading that to others. I especially enjoy florals and landscapes. I have been upgrading my supplies and tools which also helps to improve my work. I enjoy experimenting with different techniques and learning the next new step in my artistic journey.
- Why is making art important to you?
It is important for me to notice and appreciate the beautiful things in life. Getting out into nature improves my outlook on life and raises my spirits. I have been very isolated during the covid pandemic as my condition makes me very vulnerable to it. My husband and I have embarked on a personal challenge of walking the rail trail system in the area one small segment at a time. I get energized and inspired to continue painting. At the same time there has been a lot of doom scrolling on social media. I have been sharing my work there in the hope that someone there could come across my work and have their spirits lifted as well. One of my favorite quotes is Phil Ochs’ statement, “In such ugly times, the only true protest is beauty.” My hope is that in some small way my art can make the world a tiny bit better.
LornaBeth pictured at home, painting.
“Catastrophe” LornaBeth Shantz, 2020.
It was a catastrophe! It was a bad tremor day. I dropped my entire palette. Broken pieces of paint scattered everywhere. I swept the pieces up and decided to try to keep and use the largest ones. For this painting, I wet the paper and scattered broken pieces over the page at random. As the page dried, the paint chips adhered to the paper. I then returned and worked with the chips to see what I could create. Our lives are like that. Sometimes things are “broken.” It is up to me to see what sort of beauty I can create from the pieces. –LornaBeth on Catastrophe, a piece she exhibited in My Disability Story
Over the last year, LornaBeth has been experimenting with different techniques in her artwork, following many of the same themes and subject matter. “I look for what delights me, what I might like to spend time with, and what I might like to play with. I want to spend time with the things that bring me joy. I find satisfaction in exploring them and exploring the interaction of water, pigment, and paper. And then I want to share that pleasure with others in the hopes that they will find some enjoyment there as well. The world needs more joy,” she shares.
“Fragile Fortitude” 2021 available for sale at LornaBethShantz.com
“Life Stages” LornaBeth Shantz, 2021.
How has your work been developing since the exhibition? Has anything changed?
My work has developed through the use of improved materials. I’ve upgraded the quality of pigment and paper I’m using. Part of the fun I am having is in exploring new techniques and just seeing what happens as I try different things. I hope the skills and quality of my work grows but at the same time I hope that I can retain the simple pleasure I have found in this creative ability. There are many ways in which my condition limits me. Painting has unlimited possibilities as each new piece takes me to a different composition with only the limits of the medium and my imagination and skills. I can experiment, arrange, rearrange, explore and execute as I please. Such freedom!
For so many of us, art is freedom. Some of us don’t even know yet how freeing it can be to create. We are over the moon to hear about all of the positive things that art has brought to LornaBeth’s life. We are inspired by her ability to find beauty in so many things that some of us may overlook each day, and her success following showing her work in this exhibition. You can find LornaBeth’s artwork on her website at LornaBethShantz.com.