‘Rise Up: Silent Margins’ exhibit documents artist’s life as a deaf person

black and white checks at the bottom with a figure walking into grass and flowers with more red flowers at the top.

A collection of paintings on display at Rochester Institute of Technology’s National Technical Institute for the Deaf explores deafness in a unique and powerful way. “Rise Up: Silent Margins,” a collection of 17 paintings by RIT/NTID alumna Ashley Hannan, runs through Feb. 23 in NTID’s Dyer Arts Center Glass Room.

Hannan’s paintings document her journey of coming to terms with being deaf, having a cochlear implant and being the only deaf person in the mainstream schools she attended. Of her piece The Black Hole of Conflicted Identity, Hannan says, “Growing up, after having been educated at an oral deaf school with intensive speech therapy and audiology testing, I still felt incomplete. Though I was implanted with a cochlear implant at age 6, ‘fixing’ me still did not fill in the hole I had and still have in my identity. Thousands of dollars was spent on my education to perfect my listening and speech. It wasn’t until my young adult years I began to awaken and notice the conflict in my self-esteem stemmed from the lack of understanding that there is a deaf culture that is just as functional as the hearing world. I was apprehensive of delving into the deaf world for my identity for a long time.”

Of her piece Be True, Hannan says, “It took me many years, maybe three decades, to realize that all I needed to do was ‘be true’ to myself. Reject the envy of being ‘hearing’ and nurture the ‘flaw’ I have, my deafness. Emerge into something beautiful that always has been there.”

As part of the exhibit, Hannan, a graduate of RIT’s graphic design program, has created accompanying text that explains the symbolism within each piece.

A closing reception for the exhibit will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Feb. 22 and a painting party will be held Feb. 23, in the gallery.

The gallery is located on the RIT campus in Lyndon Baines Johnson Hall, 52 Lomb Memorial Drive, Rochester. Gallery hours are 10 a.m.–5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and 10 a.m.–2 p.m. Saturday. For more information, go to www.rit.edu/ntid/dyerarts/.