Challenging the Stereotypes of Achondroplasia through Artwork

From paintings and statues to circus advertising and reality TV, the last few centuries of art has not always favored people with achondroplasia. Although some of the earliest pieces of ancient Egyptian artwork highlighted achondroplasia as “godlike” in ornate sculptures and wall paintings, modern art has done little to capture their beauty, according to an essay in MENAFN. Achondroplasia is a bone growth disorder that causes short stature. To read more about it, click here.

In centuries past, artwork often featured people with achondroplasia in the courts of royal kings and queens. In ancient Egypt, two different gods were little people and the statues were buried in the tombs of pharaohs, for safekeeping. In later years, one of the earliest painting found from the Italian Renaissance is a beautiful fresco of a woman with achondroplasia.

In the last 100 years, the “needle” for artwork hasn’t moved much for people with achondroplasia. Blame is often heaped upon circus leader, P. T. Barnum, and his advertising banners created to pique interest in his sideshows–and the recent spate of reality TV shows that peer into the lives of those with achondroplasia. Which is why one artist decided it was time for things to change. Her main desire was only to capture her real-life struggles with her condition, and how she feels about the stares, laughter, abuse, and insults.

Artist Debra Keenahan, who has the condition, has created a 3-D sculpture of herself to turn the tables on those who judge her. The statue is three life-size figures of herself backing up into each other. Each figure is bending over as if speaking down to a child, rather than an adult or one of equal stature.

The statue, called Little Big Woman: Condescension, is reminiscent of the marble-carved classic ancient Greek or Roman statues typically found staring into space in the center of a fountain. But this statue is different. It is looking down, forcing everyone else to look up to meet the eyes and half-formed smile of the statue, as if it is enjoying this vantage point for the first time. The statue does make you stop and think. It represents a modern-day creation of a people who are tired of being looked down upon, and want others to know it.

To read more of the essay or see the statue, click here.

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