Ending the stigma of disability in the art world

US Congress member Shirley Chisholm famously said: “If they don’t give you a seat at the table, bring in a folding chair.”
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It’s an empowering line which has inspired the title of an international women's art coven which US-born artist Gina-Marie Cincinnati – currently living in Ringmer – is co-founding.

Currently there are 18 members of the Folding Chair Coven, a new group which exists “to try to facilitate real diversity and representation in the art world and take back the galleries and judgement on our own terms.”

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Gina-Marie, who was diagnosed with MS in 2006, notes from her own experiences in the international artworld just how many restrictions and obstacles still exist: “I have had galleries turning away my art because of the subject matter which is to do with disability and illness and disease.”

Gina-Marie Cincinnati (contributed pic)Gina-Marie Cincinnati (contributed pic)
Gina-Marie Cincinnati (contributed pic)

Subversive work is certainly coming through, but there is “still so much riding on the more traditional curators in the artworld.

“Many of us attended a recent European Biennale thinking we had a chance to make a statement with our art, but learned that the jury panel seemed relatively conservative, with a majority white, male makeup. Without criticising other participants, much of the award-winning work was predictable.

"We also noticed a dearth of intersectional diversity and minority representation at the event: there were perhaps three visible disabled artists and topics, myself included, a few LGBTQIA artists and topics, and it seemed that although the ratio of women to men at the event was about equal, there didn't seem to be many people from other socio-economic backgrounds, the global south or other categories. We wondered about the selection/invitation process.”

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Gina-Marie moved to the Lewes/Ringmer area in September with her husband after ten years spent living and working in Tokyo. They are currently living with his parents while they decide whether to settle in the area or perhaps head north to the Sheffield area: “But it is great here. I'm so excited to be here. I've been travelling here for ten or 11 years visiting my husband's family back and forth and the arts scene is a good one. It's moving in the right direction. I'm really excited about the WIA gallery in Lewes, and then you've got Brighton which is such an arts hub.

“My aim is to collect women or woman-identifying artists who are actively showing in their respective countries or at events such as the Biennale many of us attended and band together to hold our own gallery shows. This would enable us to build our resumes independently of the establishment galleries and make a name for ourselves. You might know about Klimt and the Vienna Secession Movement. It's a bit like that, but for international women artists.

“At the moment I am classified as a mixed media artist, but I am swiftly moving into the installation category with the works I have planned. You can see examples of my past and current work on my website https://ginamariecincinnati.com/. You can find me on Instagram and TikTok as: @awomanwithoutacountry.”

In the meantime, Gina-Marie has got big plans for upcoming artworks: “At the moment, I've got six applications submitted for grant funding and am currently in talks with a major pharmaceutical company about funding a large-scale installation focused on life as a person with a disability. I do believe the issue of diversity and representation is a real, current, important issue that needs attention.”

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