Filming the invisible
Artist Kyrianna Bolles will be in Ashland and Talent Saturday filming scenes for a video she hopes will provide support for the Invisible Disabilities Association.
The Talent resident, known as KYRIANNA in the art world, said the filming will take place in a handful of locations to depict the challenges faced by individuals with what are often overlooked — or seemingly invisible — health challenges.
“Basically the piece is centering around the topic of what society expects that someone who is disabled should look like. It’s kind of a way of challenging the ableism in our society, especially considering people with physical disabilities,” she said, noting that the video would feature locations uncomfortable for disabled individuals, ranging from a restaurant seating area and gym to a grocery store and trailhead.
“We’re going to be starting at a location that is very inaccessible and uncomfortable for someone with a disability, and descending to places maybe a little less obvious but also not as accessible or comfortable as people would expect,” she said.
Known for her watercolor depictions of individuals with medical conditions that are not always immediately obvious, Bolles was born and raised in Talent. She moved away for college and to pursue her art but moved back last year during the pandemic. Having developed a chronic pain condition at the age of 12, coping with her own condition while navigating day-to-day life shaped much of her style as an artist, she said.
Her images depict medical conditions in ways that have been described by the subject, for example a person with osteophytosis described her pain as feeling like an animal was gnawing on her body. One of Bolles’ own self-portraits depicts her pain with the invasive roots of delicate violas pushing into her back.
In college, she started a support group and honed her process of interviewing subjects to learn more about their conditions. She completes a questionnaire and in-person interview prior to painting, a process she hopes is a therapeutic experience for her subjects and a way to increase “social consciousness and compassion.”
Bolles will be filmed depicting scenarios that are commonplace for those with various physical challenges. While she doesn’t have a specific schedule for the filming, some of the scenes will take place near Creekside Bar and Skout Taphouse. She’ll have literature to pass out for anyone interested in learning more about her work.
“Society seems to have the idea that they should be able to tell if someone is disabled. For the filming, there will be participants that will manipulate my appearance to gradually deconstruct the societal expectations of what a healthy, nondisabled person should look like,” she said.
“Someone will come up and give me a cane in one scene, someone will remove all my makeup in another, and I’ll have a scene where someone cuts all my hair off. There’s another scene where I’m given a wheelchair. … Throughout the piece, it will be descending into what is more traditionally associated with somebody who looks disabled.”
With roughly half of Americans coping with at least one chronic condition, Bolles said she hoped to raise awareness with both her video and her artwork. She plans to post the results of Saturday’s filming on her website sometime later this month.
“I’ve not worked with a single person who has ever been immediately believed that they have something going on. There are situations where you’re at the gym and there is judgment from people around what you are or aren’t doing as somebody who outwardly looks very able-bodied,” she added.
“If you see somebody in a wheelchair, you expect they’re going to need certain accommodations, but if you see somebody who looks able-bodied, you aren’t as likely to understand why they might need extra help. We’re hoping to dispel some of the assumptions and raise awareness and encourage empathy and understanding.”
For more information, see kyrianna.art and invisibledisabilities.org.
Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at firstname.lastname@example.org.