Deaf artist uses art for activism and awareness
West Lafayette, IN
By DANIELLE WILKINSON Staff Reporter
October 26, 2015
Deaf artist Ellen Mansfield uses her art to inform the hearing population about deaf culture and to end oppression in the deaf community.
Mansfield is a part of De’VIA (Deaf View/Image Art), a group of artists who use their art to express their experience of being deaf.
“It was expanded upon to incorporate acting and writing, and it emphasizes the importance of all of the things that are the deaf experience,” said Mansfield through her interpreter.
De’VIA art involves repeated features such as the use of eyes, mouths, ears and hands. Many of the motifs used also involve animals.
“Animals like bees, butterflies, turtles and snakes don’t have hearing at all. Deaf artists apply that to their artwork as a sort of symbolism,” said Mansfield.
De’VIA flourished in 1989 and started with only eight deaf artists. Shortly after the group’s inception, the artists separated to pursue their own projects. It wasn’t until 2012 that they would come back together again.
Mansfield became a full-time artist in 2011 just as De’VIA was beginning to take off again. One of Mansfield’s works at the time reflected upon her years without American Sign Language (ASL).
“My experience not using ASL for many years was not good,” said Mansfield. “I really had no form of communication. I didn’t feel alive. With ASL, it really gave me life, it taught me how to communicate. What happens to flowers without sun? They die. ASL was my sun.”