De’VIA, or Deaf View Image Art, is an art form that “represents Deaf artists and perceptions based on their Deaf experiences. It uses formal art elements with the intention of expressing innate cultural or physical Deaf experience. These experiences may include Deaf metaphors, Deaf perspectives, and Deaf insight in relationship with the environment (both the natural world and Deaf cultural environment), spiritual and everyday life.”
What does all that mean? Like other genres of art, De’VIA uses elements of the world that express what it is to be Deaf. Major themes include sign language, perception, and isolation. De’VIA artists express Deafness in a variety of ways, including using bright colors, and emphasizing facial expressions (expression is a key element in sign-language that indicates one’s attitude toward the subject). A famous piece by artist Ann Silver shows two boxes of Crayons, one very dated and the other relatively modern, but both of them showing the different arrays of Deafness in the eyes of their respective cultures. For example, the old box displays Crayons labeled “Freak,” “Handicapped,” and “Dummy,” whereas the new box of Crayons have labels like “Late-deafened,” “Deaf-blind,” and “Signer,” signifying an increased cultural understanding of Deaf culture.
Not all of the works are overtly “Deaf.” A 1992 painting by De’VIA superstar Chuck Baird called “Crocodile Dundee” depicts a crocodile and its reflection in the water…but when one takes a closer look, the reflection is actully a pair of hands signing the ASL word for “croc”!
While De’VIA celebrates the Deaf identity, it is by no means exclusive to Deaf audiences, and anybody, hearing or Deaf, will enjoy this unique style of art.
by Carlin Twedt