Diving in a Wheelchair: Art to Alter Possibility

Posted on September 4, 2015 by Liesl Ulrich-Verderber

Most of us might assume that the need for a wheelchair limits possibility. What if it actually expands what’s possible?

Sue Austin’s work has an immensely transformative power. She is shattering the boundaries of our assumptions and our preconceived notions. With her wheelchair as an integral part of her creative process, she expresses a joy and freedom most do not understand. We look at her Freewheeling TED Talk and more in this article about changing the unknown.

Image: Sue Austin Underwater in her wheelchair surrounded by hundreds of small red/orange fish
Source: TED.COM

As a multimedia, performance, and installation artist, Sue Austin is changing the way we think about disabilities. Her powerful artwork makes us step back and question our deeply held assumptions. The stunning imagery she creates truly shows that the world is full of boundless possibility.

Re-envisioning the Familiar…

In addition to her underwater work , she created “Traces from a Wheelchair” where her wheelchair became her paintbrush and mode of expression.

Image: One of Sue Austin's wheelchair paintings
Source: TED.COM
Image: Sue Austin Free Wheeling on grass
Source: TED.COM

Austin also founded Freewheeling: a disability led initiative focused on providing a ‘hub’ around which to foster integrated arts projects.” 2

More underwater wonder:

Image: Sue scuba diving in a wheel chair near a coral reef
image: water acrobatics in a wheelchair

You can see even more of her work and learn more about Freewheeling here.

Art is powerful when it helps us re-envision the familiar, and transform our preconceived notions. It forces us to ask why, and then perhaps, “Why not?!”

Because of Sue Austin and artists like her, perhaps next time we see ourselves reacting on habit or impulse we will pause, step back, and reassess the world with more open eyes.

Today’s everwideningcircles.com article idea came to us from Holly Thweatt. You can send us inspiring content ideas too!.. I’m so glad Holly reminded me of this TED Talk. This has long been on my list of “Most Inspiring Talks” too!


“The shortest distance between two people is laughter” -Victor Borge

Liesl can be found on Instagram @Liesl.UV



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