Category Archives: Art by Asphyxia

Meet my new book, Future Girl 

My new book, Future Girl, is coming out in October. If you’d like a signed copy, pre-order now.

Future Girl is an own-voice coming-of-age novel set in near future Melbourne, that bursts with passion, resilience, optimism and joie-de-vivre. Presented as 16-year-old Piper’s stunning visual-art journal, the book is an instructional environmental call-to-arms, which explores my detailed experience of Deaf culture and what it feels like to be d/Deaf.

It’s taken me eight years to write and create artwork for this book, and with the final draft, my publisher said to me, ‘This is going to be your masterpiece.’ Aside from wanting to change her word to ‘mistresspiece’, I really hope she is right. You tell me.

Piper’s mum wants her to be ‘normal’, to pass as hearing and get a good job. But when peak oil hits and Melbourne lurches towards environmental catastrophe, Piper has more important things to worry about, such as how to get food. When she meets Marley, a CODA (child of Deaf adult), a door opens into a new world – where Deafness is something to celebrate rather than hide, and where resilience is created through growing your own food rather than it being delivered on a truck. As she dives into learning Auslan, sign language that is exquisitely beautiful and expressive, Piper finds herself falling hard for Marley. But Marley, who has grown up in the Deaf community yet is not Deaf, is struggling to find his place in the hearing world. How can they be together?

If you have shared my posts about Deafness, please share this one. I’ve learnt that there’s an overwhelming desire out there to understand Deafness and Auslan better. This book is your opportunity to dive in deep, and have a rollicking ride of art and urban food production at the same time. I will be so grateful if you can help me spread the word.

Pre-order here.

Thanks!

How gender stereotypes are created

Do you ever wonder why our society is so obsessed with gender? What makes it SO important that most of us simply cannot relate to a person unless we know their gender? Are boys and girls innately different or is it society that shapes us? I have wondered this for a long time, and finally I found a book that offered real, evidence-based answers:

Here’s what I learnt from the book

We are obsessed with gender.

The first thing a baby is likely to hear when out of the womb is a pronouncement of his/her gender. Every day, for the first weeks and months of a child’s life, they hear their parents announce over and over which gender they are. We use gender to label, sort, segregate and even colour-code people. It becomes the most important category to which a child belongs. it is like saying to our children, “Your gender is really, really important. It determines what activities you’ll like and how you will behave. Please pay attention to how boys and girls behave and act and shape your preferences accordingly.”

We humans love to categorise things.

Creating stereotypes is an innate trait – it’s a way for us to quickly and easily understand our world, and we do this from a young age. The reason that so many stereotypes centre around gender is because that’s the focus our society gives it. If we give children a different focus, they will just as quickly create stereotypes around that.

A study on stereotypes.

Rebecca Bigler, a professor of developmental psychology at the University of Texas, shows that simply labelling a group leads children to develop stereotypes about that group. For example, students in a primary school class were each given a red or blue T-shirt and told to wear it every day for six weeks. The teachers treated these colour groups in the same ways they would treat gender. They said, “Good morning, blue kids, red kids!” “Let’s line up blue, red, blue, red.” Names were written on a blue or red bulletin board and students had a card of that colour on their desk. Students weren’t asked to compete with each other and the teachers showed no favouritism towards either group. They simply labelled the kids as being red or blue, over and over again.

In the next classroom, a ‘control’ group of children wore red and blue T-shirts but the teachers never mentioned the colour.

The result?

After only four weeks, children formed stereotypes about their colour-coded groups. They liked their own group better than the other group. Red-shirted children would say, ‘The blue kids are not as smart as the red kids.’ Just like with gender, they said that all blue kids act one way and no red kids act another way. They began to segregate themselves, playing with kids from their own colour group more than those with the other colour group, and were more willing to help kids in their own group.

The children in the control group didn’t form any stereotypes based on colour. If adults ignored the groups, even when there were very visible differences, children did too.

Simply by mentioning gender all the time, and sorting our world based on gender (think separate toilets for men and women, separate sporting events for men and women, separate clothing areas in department stores…) even if we never say anything stereotyped about a particular gender, our children will form the stereotypes for themselves.

We shape ourselves to fit our group.

Through similar classroom experiments, Bigler showed that children teach themselves to like and remember the activities favoured by their group, and tend to dislike and forget the details of activities favoured by the other group. This explains why boys may like remember every make and model of cars, while girls might like and remember details of how to use make up. Children quickly identify which group they belong to, and set about shaping their own knowledge preferences to fit.

We trick ourselves into believing our own stereotypes.

Children (and adults too) tend to forget exceptions to the stereotypes. For example, many children form the stereotype that women like cooking. Even when researchers show children a photo of a man standing in front of a stove, and tell the that this man likes to cook dinner for his family, if they ask the children about the man later, it doesn’t alter their stereotypes about cooking. Some children, when shown a picture of a female school principal would later remember her as the ‘lunch lady’ or ‘secretary’, while they’d remember the male cook at a hospital as being a doctor. We actually alter our memories to fit our stereotypes, rather than allowing our stereotypes to be altered by experience.

What can we do?

Because stereotypes are so hard to change, it’s good to get in at birth if possible. But we can all start to shift things now by ending the way we label and divide our world by gender. Instead of saying ‘fireman’ say ‘firefighter’. Instead of saying ‘See that man over there?’ say ‘See that person over there? The one with the blue shirt?’ Instead of saying ‘Good girl,’ say ‘Good kid’. Don’t invite ‘the girls’ over, invite your ‘friends’ instead. As shown in the  classroom with red and blue T-shirts, language is powerful. Small alterations can make a big difference.

Let’s get started today. Who wants to join me in going gender-neutral for one week? Watch your language and see if you can delete gender from it as much as possible.

If you’d like a print of this painting to remind you to stay on track with going gender-neutral, you can order one here.

Happy unChristmas cards

This is a card for those of us who don’t really do Christmas but don’t want to give a total slap in the face to those around us that do, by ignoring it entirely. If, like me, you’re an un-Christmaser, maybe you’d like a pack of these? They sold out quickly last year so grab them while they are available if they take your fancy.

Check my shop around Christmas.

Colourful quirky prints

If you’re looking for something sweet, quirky and colourful to brighten up a room, maybe one of my prints will fit the bill?

I’ve got prints about girls who want to be rabbits and birds, lots of lovely faces to bring life to your room, lots of birds, and plenty of prints about Deafness too.

Check them out here

if you have a blank spot on your wall that needs sparking up.

Antlers and Stripes Christmas cards

These are my most popular Christmas cards. I’ve ordered several packs for this year, but they always sell out so if you’d like some, get in quickly. The card features a papier mache antler doll I made myself, who wears a sweet little striped suit knitted by my fabulous friend, Torhild Trydal. On the front are the words “Merry Christmas” which I wrote with my own handwriting. It’s plain inside, read for you to write your own greeting for family and friends.

You’ll find packs of 5 in my shop here.

 

Make the book of your dreams testimonial

cover

One of the things I’ve loved about running my journal e-course, Make The Book Of Your Dreams, is getting to chat with my students and watch their progress with their own journals. I have a Facebook group just for course participants and I often post mini tutorials there about how to make a certain kind of page. And I get feedback from students too.

I just wanted to share this one with you.. a really lovely comment from Niki na Meadhra, who came to my first ever course in making an art journal. I bumped into her a month or so later in a cafe. She’d come with her journal tucked under her arm, ready to work on it over a morning coffee. I was blown away. Her journal was amazing. She’d used all the ideas I taught in the class and with her own touch, it looked so uniquely HERS. And this is what she told me…

‘This course has changed my life! It is a generous and rich process that you are sharing with us, Asphyxia. It has been very powerful for me. My journal carries its own energy and came with a huge spurt of focus and joyous creating, reflecting, selecting, responding, noodling and doodling. It is very much a grounding and connecting tool which joins together things that seem so random. Suddenly, when held in the physical form of the journal and linked visually, they make enormous sense and fitting and belonging together. It is hard to express how it works. It feels like magic. It manifests the workings of the unconscious, so that they can be read more plainly. The pages of these journals can capture all kinds of moments and moments layered on each other in potent ways. No matter how many times I go back to my journal and meander through its pages, it still speaks loudly to me.I found my own style based on your format and process, and developed my own journaling habits with it. Asphyxia, I’m so grateful for your generous guidance and insight and creative abundance in leading me so skilfully through this process!’

Anyway, how lovely is that? If you want to try the course yourself, you’ll find it here.

Do you have the privilege…?

In case you can’t read the writing on this painting, it says, ‘Do you have the privilege of being unaware of your Hearing Privilege?’

A friend mentioned that she’d noticed a real sense of ‘hearing privilege’ among her classmates at uni, who treat the the deaf student as though she’s not as intelligent as the rest of them.

‘How do you know they think that?’ I asked.

‘Well, it’s in the subtle things. When we’re discussing ideas for projects, no-one ever asks what she thinks. When we start work, people offer to help her with her work, but never ask her to help them. It adds up.’

My friend just articulated something insidious that I’ve never really been able to put my finger on. That’s how people treat me (until they know me better), and day after day, in situation after situation, I start to find myself feeling like the sweet little pet of those around me, instead of a valuable, interesting contributing member of society.

Being patronised this way is a routine experience for most Deaf people. The problem is not being unable to hear, but the attitude of other people.

Please share this post to do your bit to raise awareness about this tricky issue.

Giclee prints of this artwork are available in my shop and make a fantastic gift.

About opening my own doors…

Sometimes doors open for me. Mostly I open them myself. This is how I have survived, and thrived, as a Deaf person.

Let me tell you about one way I’ve opened my own door, a while ago. I wanted to study an online course that would teach me how to sell my paintings more effectively. The course was advertised with a limited time to apply, and a limited number of students would be accepted. I emailed the teacher and asked him if it would be accessible to Deaf people. I know he usually teaches using videos, and sometimes has transcripts as well.

I didn’t hear back, and I didn’t want to pester him. Unfortunately I let too much time go by and applications closed. I’d missed out. I was really disappointed. I decided that I’d try to create my own course, and use the internet to answer the questions I wanted answered about selling artworks. I devised my own curriculum.

But unfortunately the finer points of the stuff I wanted to know, I couldn’t glean from Google. No go.

Some months later, the course was advertised again. I didn’t waste any time. I put in my application right away. this time I included the question in my application, ‘Will this course be accessible for Deaf people?’

I got a reply immediately. ‘I’m sorry, but this course is not suitable for deaf.’

There was no mention of how we might find a way to make it work. Sigh. I emailed back, suggesting some ideas. Perhaps I could buy the transcripts from the earlier course, at a reduced price? No, they weren’t available yet. None of my ideas was met with any juice. He pointed me towards another of his courses, one which I felt I already had a pretty good handle on and didn’t need to take.

Nevertheless, I put in the application form for it and described in detail all the achievements of my art business to date, the goals for my business, and exactly how I felt he could help me.

To my surprise, that changed everything. Suddenly the door was open. I sounded hardworking and focussed (yep.. maybe he assumed that Deaf people aren’t?), and I’ve got some momentum happening (yes.. did he assume that I didn’t?)…. From there we were able to negotiate. We’d do type-skypes, and because he was a little slow at typing, he’d throw in an extra one. I really appreciated that. Instead of just me busting a gut to get this information, he was prepared to extend himself too.

I’m most of the way through the course now and the results have been amazing. My art business is going from strength to strength. My teacher has described me as one of his hardest working students, which doesn’t surprise me. I’ve always had to work very hard to get what I want. Because those doors, they don’t open easily. They take a fair bit of prising.

But I’m glad I’ve got the guts to do it, because that’s what’s gotten me where I am today, with a fabulous career, a stack of published books, and a mudbrick eco-home that I built myself.

This painting is for everyone who needs a bit of inspiration to work at their own doors. It’s especially for those of us with some extra challenges to get them open. The original is in a museum in a Deaf school in Delaware, but prints are available in my shop.

If you’d like to do your bit to help raise awareness, feel free to share this post. Thanks!

Prints and artworks about Deafness

If you’d like some artwork on the wall that is for Deaf people, by a Deaf artist, and reflects Deaf values, you might like one of my prints. I have heaps of different images available and they include Deaf activism, Deaf experience and Deaf pride.

These prints are great for the lounge room wall, and would also suit spaces where services are offered to Deaf people – think Deaf units in schools, Deaf clubs/societies, audiology clinics, interpreting agencies and more.

If you want something striking, or a splash of colour, along with a great message, check out my prints here.

Rabbit Tshirt

Just in case you’d like one of my paintings on a T-shirt, I’ve put this on Redbubble. Redbubble is really cool – you can order any style or size of garment that suits your style – a hoodie, a scoop neck, a V neck, whatever you like.  This one, You Have Become So Dear To Me, features my girl loving up her rabbit. If you’d like her on a top of your own, head over to Redbubble

Rabbit Tshirt