As I described in Don’t Call Me Inspirational, I discovered painting in my forties and have found it another meaningful way to embrace my disabled body and to challenge stereotypes about disability. Painting has become a tool for both self-discovery and activism. My paintings have included self-portraits that specifically depict the parts of my body that I have been most inclined to disavow, such as my hands and face; portraits of other women with disabilities; the juxtaposition of disabled body parts with unexpected objects and images to foster new ways of thinking about disability; and a series of autobiographical narrative paintings depicting my experiences growing up with a disability. I have also used animal and nature themes to reflect the world’s treatment of difference and to envision a more hospitable world.
I am currently at work on a children’s book, The Girl Who Built the Wall; it features a young girl with a disability dealing with unjust treatment by her nondisabled peers, first by building a protective wall around herself, then by fighting back. I have also begun to pursue to a more abstract style of artwork involving looser brushstrokes and nonrepresentational images, giving me greater opportunity to use and display the unique movements of my body.
Brief Art Biography
HARILYN ROUSSO has studied extensively with Sally Brown and Sally Nystrom, both well-known Minnesota artists and longtime faculty members at the former Split Rock Arts Program of the University of Minnesota. She also took a master class with Jacob Lawrence and courses at the 92nd Street Y, the New School University, the Omega Institute, the Women’s Studio Workshop, and Cooper Union. Rousso has been awarded painting residencies at the Millay Colony for the Arts, the Cummington Community of the Arts, and the Vermont Studio Center. She has had one-woman shows at the Independent Arts Gallery and the Sister Fund Gallery, and has had works featured in The Disability Rag, and in such e-zines as Ducts and DisabilityWorld.