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Feingold Gallery: Hidden Disabilities

Feingold Gallery:
Hidden Disabilities



The design of this gallery is aimed at encouraging conversation involving both immediate and reflective thought, individual and collective. Rather than starting by reading comments of others, please first put your own immediate thoughts in the on-line forum below. This way, we'll all be able to see how much similarity and difference there is in our initial reactions and interpretations of the images. Then go back to see what others have said about this image and add whatever new thoughts you have as a result of that. More general thoughts about the collection of images and/or this exhibit as a whole are welcome in the on-line forum on the exhibit home page.



John Palmer's picture

when it's obvious

Obvious disabilities need no explanation. Intermittent and not so obvious problems can cause a person much stress and alienation. if I fight my disability and appear healthy and strong then to one who has no perspective I must be faking, or letting psychosis rule me. The fact is we hide when we feel bad, just don't want to explain what is going on and the last thing we want is pity.

John Palmer's picture


I spent over 20 years with a diagnosis of M.S. I struggled with it because it would come and go. Unfortunately I only had medicaid at the time and couldn't get any help. I am an industrial electrician and convinced myself I could overcome it and go to work. I went to California in 1999 during the dot com boom mainly to get away from the south Louisiana heat. This gave me enough income to qualify for social security. I began deteriorating in 2003 and got to a point where I couldn't walk. I got back on disability again and was able to get mri scans. There were no signs of M.S. I have arthritis in my lower spine and a stenosis in my neck which causes neuropathy. With medication and a steroid shot to my spine I can lead a semi normal life. I am ,however, judged fairly harshly by some who only see me on my better days. Explaining my malady over and over is tiring. So I get labeled and along with a sense of being unproductive it is necessary to deal with the scorn .I try to reason this away but it is almost impossible to do. In affect I am the girl on the right.

Jaci Gillespie's picture


I did not see the women in the wheelchair as disabled, but rather as somenone who has championed over tremoundous obstacles. While the picture of the swimsuit model is esthetically pleasing, I see someone who is yet young, inexperienced with life's many challenges and only time will tell how she measures up to these inevitable trials.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Opening a door..

Yes, divergence of my own mind is what I feel and think first when looking at this composition. Then I specifically
notice the two women smiling, I wonder why. Looking closer I think they like where they are. My eyes turn to the left picture: a wheelchair and tennis. How did she train to get there. How do you teach her to tennis in a wheelchair apart from the physical understanding I wonder what motivation she has internally or needed to be given for her to be smiling while playing tennis in a wheelchair. Than I realize the woman on the right, uhm the composer of this picture must have had the idea to use two extremes that after contemplation are more alike than you can see in a split second if you tend to be prejudice. Well it's must mean that she has a disability below the surface. internal disease, mental disability, blind/deaf, no I don't think see is blind. But she is not doing anything, apart of looking very nice in very little. So more guessing, but more difficult to be engaged.

Fatha John's picture


Thank you David for this great inspiration on disability studies.John

Lin's picture

After taking a look at the

After taking a look at the two women, I totally agree with the test written in the picture. It does not really mean that if you are physically integrated you are healthy. Mental disabilities are hidden in our daily life. Some mental illnesses are obvious and can be observed easily, however, none of humans is absolutely mentally healthy. We all, more or less, have some certain mental problem.

RecycleJack Marine's picture

Hidden Disabilities

Some people are unable to eat like normal people, making it easier in the short-term to find jobs in the modeling industry.

CFena's picture

Hidden Disabilities

My first thoughts that came to mind where that the lady on the left had an obvious physical disability. This is shown by the fact that she is sitting in a wheel chair.
The lady on the right may "look" perfect but may have mental and or emotional disabilities that would put her in the same catagory as the lady on the left if all disabilities were as obviously visible as having to use a wheel chair.

Patricia's picture

The quickness of the eye deceives the mind

My first thought was: they are both beautiful! My second thought was: the young model had an accident in the runway, became paraplegic, has grown older and hopefully wiser.

Anonymous's picture

Disability Photo

I love this piece of Artwork. It actually affects me personally, as I have an invisible mental health disability and look great on the outside, for example my hair, makeup and cloths. Without being conceited, I look similar to the model in the right photo. It portrays the outward beauty, but there is so much more within. The photos express the stereotypes that society has in regards to disability. I always get the But you look great" comment and I want to scream.

Excellent Art work!

Babatunde Oronti's picture


What is beauty? In my opinion, beauty is a combination of good morality, being responsible and dependable and to some extent, to be good looking.

The woman on the left may qualify (according to my definition above) to be Miss America even the way she is. However the one on the right may just be beautiful on the outside (skin deep) and may be a child abuser that you can't trust with your children or your resources.

LesBaker's picture

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder

I looked at this as if the lady (?) on the left was visualizing herself as the lady of the right. When we have a disability we often fantasize ourselves as different than the reality. (Even so called normal people do this.)

I have stuttered most of my life, yet I see my inner self as perfectly fluent. Indeed, I often notice imperfections in others speech that are often overlooked or ignored by those with more normal speech.

I hope this makes sense in such a brief post!

HB's picture

is't this ultimately, why we

is't this ultimately, why we are here on earth- because, none of us are perfect in the firdt place? We all have shortcomings, but our ultimate purpose in life is to reach, self awareness...i.e. to acnowledge whereand what we would like to improve/ better about our self, and go about making / facilitating this change. This (According to Maslow's Hierachy of Needs), refers to teying to attain Self-Actualisation).

Your picture also highlights the fact that we, as a human race, visually delude ourselves, so often. Hence, we somehow, find it 'easier' to 'accept a physically ailing person more readily, than, one ailing from a mental or emotional point of view.



Anonymous's picture

The Lady on the right makes

The Lady on the right makes me think of sexual disorders or addictions. The bottom half of the pic is kind of fogy to me that ssems to be lie or a cover up to one of these disorders like a pic says there are hidden disorders.

Martin's picture

Different kind of

Different kind of disability, good point but it is exploiting a weakness in language. 
ryan g's picture

Who is the more disabled?

Who is the more disabled?  On the inside or the outside?  Which is greater?  
akerle's picture

I am not sure how I feel

I am not sure how I feel about this image. I don't disagree with the concept that is presented here but I feel that the beautiful perfect woman over simplifies the situation. Or at least- makes me  think that she is ugly inside and that "ugliness" is not only skin deep. Is this the right kind of message or even an accurate one?
mstokes's picture

Disability cannot be seen or

Disability cannot be seen or judged from the outside or by another; that which is inside and hidden can be equally disabling.  
kmanning's picture

The breaking point

The bridge here, which seems to be holding up the man and the woman, does not seem structurally sound. At any moment it will break and they will fall, and while we may expect that the man could fall, it would be much more shocking for the woman to suddenly fall. It is the same weak bridge holding up both mental and physical disabilities.
PS2007's picture

I liked this one a lot,

I liked this one a lot, because I think physical disabilities are often seen as so much worse because one can't hide them.  This really drives the point home that no one is perfect, and even the idea of perfection is a myth.
ysilverman's picture

Mental and emotional

Mental and emotional disabilities can feel just as disfiguring for the bearer as physical. (And the hard part can be, nobody even knows they're there.)
Riki's picture

Everyone is disabled in some

Everyone is disabled in some way.
Laura Cyckowski's picture

Hidden disabilities—the

Hidden disabilities—the ability of people to carry on appearances while being tormented inside. Appearances can be deceiving.
Paul Grobstein's picture

Hidden disability comment

Maybe hard to get one's head around, but important. Perfection is a fantasy. We all have both strengths and weaknesses, and we'd all be better off acknowledging both, in others as well as ourselves.
Paul Grobstein's picture

Hidden disabilities comments

(posted for a friend)


Anonymous's picture


It is clear that the woman in the wheelchair has a physical disability, though she may be completely healthy mentally. However, the woman on the right, representing cultural ideals for what may be considered beautiful, has no physical disabilities, though it could be completely possible that she suffers great mental illness. Is it harder to have a disability that everyone can see? Or, is it harder to have one that is always hidden?

Anonymous's picture

I'm not sure. I think that

I'm not sure. I think that looking normal and portraying your 'self' to be normal is a very large pressure for someone who suffers from a mental illness. It is difficult for people to understand that there is more to someone than just the exterior. The demon of mental illness, when untreated, can lead to such misleading expectations and misunderstandings about a person that it leads to destroyed reputations, social judgements and weight for the person carrying the illness to bear. the illusion is that perfect form does not mean healthy in every sense of the word - which can lead to truly superficial values which are detrimental to all who remain ignorant and without compassion.

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