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Chicago Exhibit Spotlights Works by Disabled Artists

September 9, 1989

CHICAGO (AP) _ Beethoven was deaf when he composed some of his greatest works. Carmelo Gannello, who is legally blind, and Tom Woodward, a quadriplegic, also haven’t let their disabilities stifle their creativity.

Their artworks appear in ″Imagination Without Barriers III,″ an exhibition of works by professional disabled artists from around the country that opened Friday.

″The disabled within the boundaries of their own imagination really have no barriers,″ said Kathleen Yosko, vice president and administrator of Chicago’s Schwab Rehabilitation Center, which is sponsoring the exhibition.

Schwab organized its first disabled artists exhibition in 1987 to help commemorate its 75th anniversary, drawing about 70 entries. This year, a jury chose 46 works by 43 disabled artists from about 250 entries.

There are also nine invited works by more prominent artists with disabilities, including a lithograph by the late French painter Henri Matisse, who worked from a wheelchair in his later years.

Some of the artists have been inspired by their disabilities, but for others, their art has come in spite of their ailments.

D.W. Lundahl, 40, a polio victim from Beloit, Wis., is represented by ″Walking Wounded,″ a set of three twisted welded brass figures with straight crutches.

″With this exhibition, I celebrate my physical difference,″ Lundahl wrote in the exhibit’s catalogue. ″By acknowledging the impact that wearing a metal brace has had on my world view, I turn adversity to affirmation.″

Gannello, 69, of Oak Park, Ill., has suffered from detached retinas for 35 years. Forced by blindness to quit work as a commercial artist 20 years ago, he sells some of his work but lives on Social Security and disability payments.

Gannello’s linocut, ″Eagle Eye,″ features a large ″E″ from an eye-chart exam with two eyes in the background filled with concentric black-and-white circles of varying sizes, representing what he calls the ″floaters″ he sees constantly.

″I call it ’art of the eye,‴ Gannello said, in a telephone interview. ″I want to show people how Carmelo sees the world with his low vision.″

Woodward, 40, has been battling his disability ever since a 1968 automobile accident left him a quadriplegic. He was an arts major in college then.

Woodward, who makes a living from his art, taught himself to draw by weaving a pencil through his fingers, using his shoulder for big strokes and manipulating his arm for finer work.

″It was a matter of training my large muscles to do the motor work smaller muscles used to do,″ Woodward said from his home in Opelika, Ala. ″The technique was just born out of my disability.″

Woodward is represented by one of his graphite pencil drawings. ″Early October,″ which has a grainy, photo-like quality, shows a woman lying in a bed.

Ms. Yosko says one aim of the exhibition is to open opportunities for disabled artists. The show moved this year from the Schwab center to a gallery in the city’s River North art district, where it be until Sept. 29.

The exhibit includes photographs, oil paintings, mixed media creations, metal sculptures, pottery, and pencil sketches.

The artworks will be sold at public auction - with the proceeds to be split between the artists and the non-profit private rehabilitation center. Last year, the auction and a benefit evening raised $61,000 overall, including $11,000 for the artists, Ms. Yosko said.

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