Art: the power to break down barriers

Tuesday, 25 September 2018

Artists with disability have the power to move people, to speak truths, and to break down barriers in their community. Creating art is a responsibility that artist and advocate Zoe Hankins takes very seriously.

“Unlike simple text or speech, a painting or a piece of music can reach deep into our subconscious minds where prejudice and judgement don’t affect us,” says Zoe.

“Art is reflective, and I think when it comes to discrimination, we sometimes need to be directly shown the hurt we are causing, and the voices we are silencing, in order to do better.”

While Zoe has been creating art from a young age, it took on new meaning in her life last year, when she began to identify as a person with disability.

“It was only in the last five years I came to understand the chronic and ongoing nature of my challenges – that my psychosocial and psychiatric oddities were never going to go away,” says Zoe.

“Last year I began openly identifying as a person with disability and came across EPIC Assist’s third annual art exhibition, ‘Seen and Unseen.’

“Showing my work in that exhibition was a very clarifying and consolidating experience. To me, a resolved artwork is a beautiful and powerful testament to the good each human being is capable of, regardless of who they are or what challenges they face.”

An image of Zoe's painting 'Eight of Swrods'
‘Eight of Swords’ by Zoe Hankins

Zoe believes that people with disability have a unique voice when it comes to conveying meaning through their work. In her own work, Zoe aims to share an inside perspective of the turmoil and triumphs she has experienced when going through challenges associated with her disabilities.

Her work ‘Eight of Swords’ is an expressive and emotive reflection of her lived experiences of bipolar disorder, anxiety and chronic fatigue syndrome. The piece is ultimately a celebration of Zoe’s ongoing journey toward better health, and survival of suicidal ideation.

“I can’t fully or adequately describe just how much art has helped me throughout my journey. I don’t think it’s inaccurate to say that art has saved my life,” says Zoe.

“No matter what’s happening, no matter how hard things get, the process of making art always creates a safe and sacred space for me.”

Zoe is excited to showcase her work in ‘A World of Difference’ art exhibition presented by EPIC this December at Graydon Gallery in New Farm. For Zoe, the theme strikes a chord with her passion as an artist with disability.

“A world of difference can be made by listening to people with a disability and allowing us to lead social change,” says Zoe.

“Artists with disability know what it is like to be held back, but we also know how much more we are capable of, and what society is capable of.

“By showing the world our art, we open the world up to different and more accepting ways of seeing, being, and acting towards one another.”