The disabled Samoan artist Pelenakeke Brown works with what is given and pulls from it what is needed and true. Her artist book, “grasp + release,” redacts her own medical files, leaving legible words of her own choosing from which she composes a series of found poems, including the glorious passage: “it was/ her/ resistance/ revealed.” Blackouts normally mean censorship, removal of information, but Brown reverses that to make them revelatory and additive. It is a remarkably positive practice she achieves elsewhere, too, and through a surprisingly broad array of tools and approaches. Her portraits of people are composed through conversations about and drawings of their hair rather than their faces. Her writings employ the standard keyboard but use its strikes to create rhythmic patterns and its commands to forge rich and literate flows of ideas. “I press/ enter return/ enter return/ I am yet to return.” I will never look at medical records, hairdos, or the keys under my fingers in the same way again.
—Lori Waxman 2020-02-22 8:58 PM