I showed up in Arkansas to a hearing family and was raised in Little Rock. Somewhere along the line, I started using art as a form of communication with my family, usually drawing pictures of what I had done that day at the deaf school or what I wanted. Even after gaining a language, I still doodled on my sketch pads and dabbled in paints, growing up exposed to the art world at an early age. Some of my earliest immersion took place at the Arkansas Arts Center and in private instructions. My older sister is also an artist who has been recognized on a national level and she has two grown daughters who are in the arts as well, with one of them a songwriter and a musican and the other as the wife of an actor in the movie industry. Needless to say, my family is far from ‘traditional’! My wonderful mother has been very supportive through all this. I also attended public schools for most of my life and have a good understanding of lives on both sides of the ‘fence’.
These days, I maintain a studio in my loft, with a majority of my work being of the contemporary genre with a focus on people and animals. It was while I was a ‘born-again student’ at Gallaudet (having re-entered the academic world at the ripe age of 40) that I encountered the ideals behind De’via (deaf art), a concept I had never dreamed of, but knew immediately it was applicable to my own experience and work. I use this today as a means of expression via watercolors, acrylics on canvas and clay sculptures. As it is, my growing body of works is a pleasing mix of deaf art and contemporary works. I’d like to see more of art education and exposure among the deaf youth either in mainstreamed schools or deaf insitutions and also to see painting workshops geared for the professional deaf artists across the country. I believe there is a need for this, not only for new ideas, but also a meeting of the minds and in depth discussions that can only be truly understood by deaf artists.
RF Walker (Rob)