The Art of the Constrained

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Moe is a digital artist whose work is both cerebral and physical. The two-Dimensional images she produces are drawn, painted and manipulated through the use of a computer. Moe has described her work as “Visual Music” and the “Visualization of Thought.”

Her art is created with a constraint that makes it unique: she cannot directly see what she draws. In addition to this limitation, Moe has very little use of her right hand and forearm as a result of polio. Consequently, she draws using only her left hand and her left arm, attaching a stylus to her hand with tape.

This 2-dimensional constraint forces Moe to think in three dimensions when creating an image. She told me that in order to keep the illusion of depth, she must be very aware of the distance between objects in her piece. If one object is closer to the viewer than another, its edges need to be more defined. This requires moving the stylus slower or faster depending on where it is placed on the screen (she uses photoshop).

The constraints imposed by Moe’s disability also give her work a sense of playfulness because she must work around these limitations by inventing new techniques for manipulating her images. For example, if there is an area that needs to be worked

By all appearances, Pia Jane Bijkerk is a normal, healthy young woman. She has long brown hair, nice eyes and a winning smile; she lives with her parents in a quiet neighborhood in the Dutch village of Driebergen-Rijsenburg, about 20 miles outside Amsterdam; she likes coffee and going for walks. Yet Bijkerk suffers from multiple disabilities: She is legally blind and has only limited use of her hands and arms.

It’s not that she can’t do many things other people can. It’s just that she has to work at them differently than most. In art school, Bijkerk focused on conceptual art, in which an idea or message is conveyed through a work instead of through its aesthetic quality. She decided to create art based on her experience as a disabled person — “a kind of handicraft,” as she puts it — to show how technology can enable people with disabilities to live more independently. She designed a “sensory glove” that uses pressure sensors and radio transmitters to help the blind navigate by themselves. And she started creating works of art that demonstrate how objects can be manipulated by people with limited use of their arms and hands._

Sue Donym has a rare, crippling genetic disorder that has severely limited her ability to draw for most of her life. But this did not stop her from becoming an immensely talented artist who has been called “the Dalí of the 21st century” by critics and peers alike.

Sue Donym’s interest in art began when she was still a small child, but it was not until she reached her late 20s that she began to create original pieces of art. Even then, it was a long time before she decided to create art professionally. It was only after being diagnosed with Guillain-Barré syndrome at the age of 30 and having to use a wheelchair full-time as a result of this illness that Sue turned to drawing and painting as an outlet for her creativity. Her work is incredibly diverse and encompasses everything from oil paintings and acrylics to pen-and-ink drawings, collages, ceramics, jewelry, sculpture, photography and even animation.

Even though Sue has significant limitations imposed on her artistic expression by Guillain-Barré syndrome, she sees these constraints as opportunities rather than obstacles. “I have been very fortunate that my particular disability comes with some advantages in the creative process,” Sue says. “My condition

A few years ago I broke my ankle, and during the long weeks of recovery, I found myself with time to think and experiment. I learned that my limitations resulted in unexpected possibilities.

I decided to experiment with a new way of creating art. The results were so successful that they led me to believe there is a new form of art in which the artist creates work through the process of self-constraint. I call this artistic form moebius art after August Ferdinand Möbius, who, in 1858, invented the Möbius band, a one-sided surface with only one boundary. This surface has no beginning and no end.

Tying off the two ends of a piece of string with a slipknot creates a moebius band. It can be made by starting with three strings tied at both ends with slipknots or by taking a strip of paper, giving it a half twist, and folding it in half again. Anyone familiar with this form will recognize its similarity to my artwork “Bound” (see cover).

Art by the Numbers

When you visit the studio of artist and designer Bethany Williams, you’re not just greeted by a warm smile and a friendly handshake. You’re dazzled by an explosion of color and shapes that are part Jackson Pollock, part Kandinsky.

Some of her pieces have names like “I Love You,” “Summer Fun,” and “Call Me.” Other works are more abstract, but no less intriguing. Titles range from “Fish Eyes” to “Flamingos” to “Don’t Blink.”

Williams’ work is so captivating because she’s harnessed a unique artistic tool: her disability. Williams was born with a rare genetic condition called choroideremia, which causes degeneration of the retina and leads to blindness. She was legally blind in both eyes by age 10, but has learned to see through a method called echolocation — emitting short bursts of clicking sounds with her mouth, then interpreting the echoes that bounce back to determine her surroundings. It’s similar to what bats do when they fly around at night.

The resulting artwork provides both an interesting commentary about art and an eye-popping look at what can be achieved with creativity and vision.

Art is the most powerful tool we have for revealing the truth and building a shared imagination. When it succeeds, art inspires us to play bigger and more resilient roles in shaping our own futures.

The special issue of the Journal of Aesthetic Education on disability studies includes this article by Dr. Moebius about her art, which focuses on an aspect of perspective and how it can be used constructively to create images that are both beautiful and meaningful. She also uses her life experience to make some points about what can be learned from art about overcoming adversity.

The art of the Moebius Strip is so named because it is a strip of paper with only one side. In order to make one you start with a strip of paper and draw half a curve across it, then twist the paper over and connect the ends. If you look at the picture below you’ll see that the end result looks like a Mobius Strip.

The Moebius Strip is part of a family of three-dimensional shapes called manifolds. Manifolds are stretches of material that have no beginning or end, edges or faces, top and bottom, front or back. There are many different types of manifolds but all can be described as either being made of curved surfaces (like the surface of your watch), or being made out of tubes that have no inside or outside, just open on both ends (like an empty toilet paper roll).

This was my inspiration for creating a series of artworks using Moebius Strips in various ways. In this series I used cardboard tubes and paint to create my own Moebius Strip sculptures. As I worked with these materials I started to think about how limitations can inspire creativity; working within limits can allow for innovation and experimentation. Looking for ways around obstacles can lead to unique solutions that wouldn’t

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