This is How We Came to Be: A Handler’s Bond with her Service Dog | By Oaklee Thiele of Michigan
Join us for this wonderful exhibit by Oaklee Thiele!
Oaklee Thiele is an artist and Disability rights advocate whose work centers on invisible chronic illness and the intimate bond she has formed with her medical alert service dog. In 2020, Thiele partnered with DisArt to create the My Dearest Friends Project, an interactive art collaboration that archives Disabled voices during the COVID-19 pandemic. Since its inception, the Dearest Friends Project now spans several continents and received a grant from the Ford Foundation. Thiele regularly delivers public speeches on the topics of art and Disability to various nonprofits and schools. Thiele states, “My work has helped me to come to terms with my diagnoses. It has allowed me to preserve myself as a human being despite existing in a body that is on a consistent physical and mental decline.” Thiele defies these obstacles and creates large scale works. “My ever-fluctuating physical state impacts the production process. Depending on my pain and energy levels, I build impermanent custom tools that allow me to work in a large scale despite physical limitations,” says Thiele. You can enjoy viewing this exhibit in person or portions of it online at quincyartcenter.org.
This exhibit will be on display at the Quincy Art Center & online at quincyartcenter.org from March 13 – April 30, 2021. Public Hours will be 9 Am – 4 Pm on Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, and Saturday. This is subject to change based on Coivd-19 Guidelines from local and state agencies.
The health and safety of our community is a priority. The Art Center is following Restore Illinois Guidelines and requires all visitors to adhere to current guidelines when in the Art Center building. Masks are available for those without face coverings. Call us to schedule a free private exhibit viewing. Private viewing is available to everyone and specially created for those that are autoimmune compromised.
Lunch with the Artist
Join us on Friday, April 16 from 12 PM – 1 PM for a live Q&A with Oaklee Thiele on Zoom! Have a question for Oaklee? You can either ask her live or submit your questions ahead of time to Kelsey at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Generous Sponsorship has been provided by:
Jerry & Virginia Holzgrafe, George & Mary Nell Meyer, Signe Oakley, Shelley Ali, Ronald and Colae Vecchie, Karl Warma, Bradford & Bonnie Billings, Martha Didriksen, Deborah Gorman, Kent Schnack & Nora Baldner, Michael & Sharon Troup, Daryl & Linda Buechting, Susan Deege, Debra Scoggin-Myers, Gary & Sue Winking.
Grant support was provided by:
Tracy Family Foundation, Illinois Arts Council Agency, Gardner Denver Education Fund through the Community Foundation, Moorman Foundation, JW Gardner II Foundation, Marion Gardner Jackson Charitable Trust, The Michelmann Foundation, Quincy Noon Kiwanis, Gem City Breakfast Kiwanis, and Adams Electric Cooperative Penny Power.
View the Full Gallery Here:
View a Visual Description Tour of this Exhibit:
Full Artist Statement:
As an artist and Disability Rights Advocate, my work centers invisible chronic illness and the intimate bond that I have formed with my medical alert service dog. After experiencing extreme chronic fatigue, fainting episodes, and a decreased ability to walk, I was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Orthostatic Intolerance, and Fibromyalgia.
My work has helped me to come to terms with my diagnoses. It has allowed me to preserve myself as a human being despite existing in a body that is on a consistent physical and mental decline. As my body continues to seemingly perish, it is remembered in sculptures and paintings that are unavoidable due to their immense scale.
In some works, I involve my medical alert service dog, Coco. I view Coco as an extended self. I am her and she is me. We are one being but also separate. I consider my depictions of Coco to be a form of self-portraiture. She is sometimes rendered with or without her service dog gear, which is representative of her state of mind and attitude.
My ever-fluctuating physical state impacts the production process. Depending on my pain and energy levels, I build impermanent custom tools that allow me to work in a large scale despite physical limitations. During flare-ups, I become hyper aware of the weight of my tools and cut paint brushes in half or attach charcoal sticks to a long wooden rod so that I continue on while sitting thus reducing the chances of physical distress.
I use repetitive mark making within my work. I find this process to be calming but also physically taxing. I am incredibly deliberate with the placement and creation of marks because each movement comes at the high cost of pain and fatigue. Rhythm is also fundamental to my practice. For me, each hue holds weight and requires a specific surface area for visual beats to flow smoothly. The same is true for my text-based pieces. I choose words based on their syllables and letter sounds.
My style is heavily influenced by my Colombian heritage. The color scheme, flatness of the figures, and architecture are reminiscent of the imagery found in the Tunja mountains, the birthplace of my grandfather.
Diverse and untainted representation is crucial. I depict Disability solely from first-hand accounts with the aim of archiving accurate moments in personal and societal history. I also work abstractly in the hopes that other Disabled individuals might be able to find themselves within the work.