Confronting Discomfort: VAE Exhibit Reframes Disability

The Full Light of Day, a new show at VAE Raleigh, challenges visitors with art that explores life with disability. 
Written by Colony Little 

Photograph courtesy VAE Raleigh

A new group show at VAE Raleigh offers visitors an intimate peek into the lives of people living with disabilities. The Full Light of Day features eight artists whose work highlights their struggles with physical access, invisibility, and isolation in navigating their daily lives. Using artistic mediums that include photography, sculpture, and collage, artists depict their lived experiences to encourage disability awareness and advocacy. 

The exhibition emphasizes empathy over pity, as viewers are invited to briefly experience aspects of disability in some works, while others turn the mirror onto the viewers themselves to show how ableist language and behaviors become barriers to understanding. The show opens with a series of redacted emails from UK artist Christopher Samuel regarding a physical care dispute that led to the wheelchair-using artist’s homelessness. The redacted text distills language of loneliness and despair from bureaucratic jargon, but Samuel also manages to extract hopeful moments of strength and fortitude. 

Artist Elizabeth Sheeler also explores the power of language in work that includes screen printed doormats that contain harmful stereotypical comments made to her during her academic career. The bias on display is difficult to look at—but necessary to confront. 

Photograph courtesy VAE Raleigh

According to the show’s organizers, The Full Light of Day “operates as a place for people with, and without disabilities to come together in a safe space where discussion and collaboration will foster a better understanding of disability aesthetics and accessibility.” On Saturday, January 18 at 12:45 pm, the gallery will host an off-site performance from one of the featured artists at the Transfer Co. Ballroom. Matt Bodett will perform a piece about mental illness called “For Fear” which will undoubtedly continue the important dialog around disability and inclusivity in creating and experiencing art. 

The Full Light of Day is on view at VAE Raleigh, 309 W. Martin Street, Wednesdays-Fridays between 11:00 am-6:00 pm and on Saturdays between 11:00 am and 4:00 pm through March 14, 2020. For accessibility accommodations, please contact Kyle Hazard at 919-828-7834 or