IKOUII SPOTLIGHT: A. Laura Brody

Laura Brody sculpts for the human body and its vehicles. She developed and curates Opulent Mobility, a series of exhibits that re-imagine disability as opulent and powerful. Her art has been shown at ACE/121 Gallery, Brea Gallery, the Charles River Museum of Industry, Westbeth Center For the Arts, California State University Northridge, Gallery Expo, the Dora Stern Gallery at Arts Unbound, and The World of Wearable Art. Ms. Brody works as a professional costume maker and designer, an artist, and as a teacher. She is passionate about reuse, sustainability, and re-imagining disability.

My works draw from the history of art: the flowing shapes of Art Nouveau, the embellishments of the Victorians and the line quality of Klimt and Schiele. These sculptures are conceived with a commitment to social justice and are inspired by the spirit of scientific discovery. They are meant to encourage conversation and to inspire radical rethinking of the meanings of disability and adaptive aids.

A. Laura Brody

Take us through your process for starting each project?

First off, I come up with an idea- a mythical figure, a goddess, or an historical time period to bring to life. I’m a costume designer and maker by trade, so I approach each piece as I would a character. What does this character need? What are its background, its history, and its inherent traits? I research, draw up some rough sketches, figure out sample materials, and pick some options for the framework. Typically I have a specific device in mind for each piece, so it’s also important to figure out how the character becomes one with the walker, wheelchair, or mobility scooter. I also make a lot of samples to see what materials will work out.

Then I get to work, and the materials and the character tells me how they want to grow.

What are some of your influences?

My influences range from Art Nouveau to Victorian bric-a-brac to fancy cosplay ensembles, from the line quality of Egon Schiele to the sculptures of Dorothea Tanning and the spirit of scientific discovery. In terms of re-imagining adaptive devices, I am awed by the works of Sophie de Oliveira Barata and her Alternative Limb Project, the underwater wheelchair work of Sue Austin, and Priscilla Sutton’s fabulous Spare Parts exhibits.

What’s the significance of the materials you use?

At least 80% of my materials are re-purposed, re-used, and gifted. I feel that old materials are like buried treasure waiting to be found and given new lives. The bases for the pieces are used adaptive devices: wheelchairs, walkers, canes, and mobility scooters. I then add to them with reused textiles, hardware, household goods, and sometimes electronics.

What do you hope viewers gain from seeing your work?

My goal with these pieces is to start conversations about how we view disability, aging, and adaptive devices. These very personal objects are so often impersonal, clinical, and cold in their design. Of course there are medical concerns, but there is no legitimate reason why these items can’t have fun, color, and personality. Eyeglasses are treated as fashion objects and bicycles, strollers, and cars all have a wide variety of styles. Why not adaptive devices?

There can be beauty in all stages of life.

Is there a work that you felt was the most challenging to create? If so, why?

I challenge myself with each piece, so of course the most recent work in process comes to mind. This work is based on Melusine, a figure from French medieval legend. Her story is about female autonomy, power, and both physical and emotional labor. My version of Melusine is built into a walker, and after a year I am only getting finished with her lower half. Her “spinal cord” is formed from supplement and prescription bottles (that I need to maintain my health). The body shell is built from coconut milk and milk containers shaped around old tomato cages and stuffed with more plastic waste, and she is covered in scrap fabrics and scales built from milk containers, zipper teeth, and salvaged prom dresses. It’s a physical challenge to build since she will need to be constructed in at least 3 segments in order to get her in and out of the house, and plastic waste is dense and heavy.

For past sculptures, the Kali Walker is probably the most challenging, both physically and emotionally. She took 2 years of pain and fury to build, during which time I was dealing with the death of a dear friend from a hate crime, the virulence of the run-up election and first two years of the Trump administration, and struggles to make doctors believe me about my serious health issues.

Where do you see your work existing long term?

I am figuring that step out myself! My hope is to have the works be seen and shared widely and to collaborate with disability arts people across the country and around the world. Since my artwork is large, it’s been a challenge to display- and frequently to find wheelchair accessible places to display them in. So part of the goal of the artwork is to push towards better accessibility of gallery and artistic spaces. Ideally, I will find museums and spaces dedicated to accessibility to display the works.

Tell us about your next project/exhibition/etc?

The next project in the works is Opulent Mobility, a group art exhibit I founded and co-curate that re-imagines disability as opulent and powerful. This year the exhibit will be hosted by the City of West Hollywood as part of their events celebrating Disability Awareness Month. It will also be online at www.opulentmobility.com. The deadline for submissions is July 31 and there is no fee to submit work. If you have art that re-imagines disability, accessibility, and freedom, please share it with me and my co-curator Anthony Tusler! We’d love to share your work with the world.

Anything else you would like to add.

Thank you so much to Ikouii Creative for choosing me and my work! It was such a joy to be part of the artist talk, realizing that I was sharing the space with artists I had worked with before, two through Opulent Mobility and one through my costume design work for Abilities Dance Boston. I felt like I had found my community at long last, and I am so grateful and honored.

To learn more about her amazing work, visit her websites at opulentmobility.com and dreamsbymachine.com. You can also stay up to date and follow her social media pages at @a.laurabrody and @opulentmobility. A. Laura Brody is the Best in Show winner of the IKOUII OPEN 2021. Visit the exhibition, now on view till August 20th at ikouii.com.

  • Header Photo by Heidi Marie Photography
  • Photos Courtesy of the Artist, A. Laura Brody

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