As a community, Emma Willard School values the impact that creativity can have across disciplines, bringing us together, transcending differences, and building profound connections. Seeing through the eyes of an artist inspires us to perceive the world in a new way. We become more aware of our surroundings, see light and color differently, listen for nuance, and look deeply for previously undiscovered meaning.
Artistic expression offers not only the freedom of individual creativity, but also the opportunity to explore the experience of others. In the Spring 2021 issue of Signature magazine, we featured the work of Libby Evan ’16, a multimedia artist who uses soft sculpture to focus on her experience having an invisible disability and the search to make the invisible visible. Libby shared selections from her work, alongside this artist statement:
Thing Theory posits that objects become things when they are no longer functional. Living with a physical, invisible disability means my body is a thing as it does not function the way I want. The thingness of my existence leads to a dependence on objects because, with their help, my body transforms from a thing back to a successful object capable of moving through the world.
My world starts in my room. It is where I struggle to get out of bed every morning and where I must keep going because I have a compulsive need to work with my hands despite my physical limitations. Before I start making anything, I sit in my bed. I stare at my surrounding objects until I understand how their individual meanings are even greater than their functions. My pills and pill bottles are the center of my world as they allow my body to physically function. The hand mirror I use to apply my daily eyeliner is not a simple reflection of my appearance but rather a symbol of my need to cover up my inner pain. My velcro sneakers are emblematic of assistive technology. They represent my quirky personality while also being a creative solution for my physical inability to tie my shoes in the morning.
My work represents these once-mundane objects that combine to become representations of my identity. I use soft sculpture as a bridge connecting my struggles and triumphs to viewers. The huggability and inherent lopsidedness of soft sculpture create a sense of humor and ridiculousness which veil some of the pain my work discloses. Soft sculpture’s bodily comfort allows my work to be inclusive instead of exclusionary. I invite people to embody a new perspective of functionality and relationships to objects. I honor the objects in my life and thank them for their hard work in making the world more accessible for me.
The arts open our minds to all aspects of living, learning, and working in community together. Diversity of thought moves us to think creatively and innovate in realms beyond the arts, growing the ways in which we serve and shape our world. We appreciate Libby’s willingness to share her work and expand our view. For more about Libby’s work, visit www.libbyevan.com.