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Think First of Their Art 

click to enlarge David Fuentes's monoprint _Seed_. Fuentes is among 89 artists included in this year's Sunnyview Hospital National Aquisitions Exhibition for Artists with Disabilities, which opens in Schenectady October 24.
  • David Fuentes's monoprint _Seed_. Fuentes is among 89 artists included in this year's Sunnyview Hospital National Aquisitions Exhibition for Artists with Disabilities, which opens in Schenectady October 24.

When we think of true artists, we think first of their art, and only afterward of their circumstance. David Fuentes was born with his right side permanently crippled by cerebral palsy. The disease is not so severe as to completely disable him, but it has, inevitably, defined his life. Yet Fuentes’s disease is not the only congenital condition he came into the world with. He was also born an artist. As he notes in his artist statement, “since I was a child... [d]rawing was a passion.”

The Corpus Christi, Texas, printmaker has made his disability the foundation of his art, and has produced an extensive series of self-portraits in which he portrays his body as atrophied and earthbound. In these same pictures, though, his attitude is defiant, and his expression undaunted. “I have embraced my problems as gifts and made them the fuel to tell my story,” Fuentes writes. His story is about much more than CP. It is about triumph in the face of adversity, a theme no less universal for being so specific to the artist.

Fuentes is among 89 artists in the National Acquisitions Exhibition for Artists with Disabilities at Sunnyview Rehabilitation Hospital in Schenectady. The juried exhibit (full disclosure: having covered the show as a journalist in the past, I was pleased to participate as one of this year’s jurors) features artists with conditions from spinal cord injury to amputation to blindness. The quality of their work, however, belies the notion of disability. Anyone who has been to the exhibit, which is organized with exquisite skill by Ruth Hall Daly, knows it is one of the cultural gems of our region. For all its richness, the show is in constant danger of being defunded. One can only hope that Northeast Health, the new corporate owners of Sunnyview, will understand that whatever art does to its profits, it is nevertheless part of its wealth.

The exhibit will be presented on the second floor of Sunnyview Hospital, and is free and open to the public daily from 8am to 8pm. While you can, go see it. There’s an opening reception on October 24 from 5 to 7:30pm. The show continues through December 9. (518) 382-4503;

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