Keona May’s Major Project

“I hereby declare upon my word of honor that I have neither given nor received unauthorized help on this work.” 

Keona May  

My idea for this project was originally going to be in the form of a paper. My original plan was to write a paper about how the adult characters in Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird” could have and should have intervened with the children’s treatment of Arthur Radley and taught them sooner that just because someone is different does not innately make them dangerous. 

For instance, in the beginning of the novel when Dill was asking for a description of Arthur, Jem gave a detailed, exaggerated and embellished statement and said, “Boo was about six-and-a-half feet tall, judging from his tracks; he dined on raw squirrels and any cats he could catch, that’s why his hands were bloodstained” (Lee 47). Then he said, “there was a long jagged scar that ran across his face; what teeth he had were yellow and rotten; his eyes popped, and he drooled most of the time” which made Dill respond with, “Let’s try to make him come out” so they could “see what he looks like” (Lee 48). This initial association with Arthur, who they also never referred to by his actual name and solely called him Boo, with monster-like qualities caused them to torment Arthur with games about him, and they invested many hours into devising schemes to get him to come outside only to fuel their own imaginative curiosities about what he looked like. In other words, instead of taking the time to get to know Arthur or considering that the reason he remained inside is because of something he cannot control or perhaps a disability, they immediately villainized him and dehumanized him completely by making him this character who they must see simply because he is different from them. Of course this judgment can be understandable since they are children and have not had much exposure to the world yet, in addition to the time period the book takes place, racism is still rampant, and hence it is a societal norm to judge others different than them whether that be based on race, overall appearance or financial status, etc. However, adult characters like Atticus and Miss Maudie, who although made some effort to correct the children, should have made it a priority to specifically teach them that the reason Arthur chose not to leave his home is most likely not complicated or with mal-intent. Oftentimes adults try and shield children away from people who are different or who have disabilities and instead of answering questions they have, they dismiss the conversation and say phrases like “don’t stare just keep walking” which further perpetuates the stigma that people with disabilities are different in a bad way as well as the “us vs. them” superiority mindset. 

With all of this in mind, I produced a new idea for my project that I believed could be better told in the form of a painting instead of through a paper which I feared would become redundant. Consequently, my new idea was to create an abstract painting with an alluring background filled with vibrant colors as the focus of the piece and then I wanted to draw small, also abstract-looking, skeletons with different disability labels on them i.e. dyslexia, ADHD, autistic, and aspergers. The purpose of my painting and inclusion of the skeletons is to convey the message that although humans appear to be different on the outside, at our core we are all the same and are all capable of beauty. Additionally, the reason I made the painting abstract is to convey that no one person gets to define what beauty means, but it is more important than labels which is why I spent the majority of my focus on blending colors and adding eye catching, brilliantly colorful shapes. I honestly had no specific plan as to how I was going to create the abstractness look other than I picked the brightest/most aesthetically pleasing colors I had in my possession and just let my brush flow with no true rhyme or reason other than creating something that was soothing to look at. I am very pleased with the final result and I believe it conveys both my original vision and my message- that we are all capable of beauty and labels are insignificant, perfectly. 

Lee, Harper. To Kill a Mockingbird. New York :Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006.

One thought on “Keona May’s Major Project”

  1. Hello Keona!
    I really enjoy interpreting and appreciating your painting! I purposefully began interpreting your artwork with my own imagination before reading your write-up with the hopes of seeing it without any set perspective. In my eyes, the randomness of the shapes and colors coming together so beautifully, without any specific pattern, proved the point that there is no specific formula or way to be beautiful or “normal.” For me, this class really opened my eyes up to the ableist idea of normalcy, and how that wrong idea of normalcy shapes how our society sees disability. I think your painting does an amazing job of showing how the random assembly of so many different shapes and colors amongst skeletons with different disabilities puts forth the message that beauty doesn’t have to follow any rules or guidelines set by our society.
    After reading your write-up, I enjoyed the artwork even more. Specifically, I love how you made each of the skeletons look the same to symbolize how people’s differences are just an allusion that is seen by the outermost layers of the body. By not showing the outer layers of the bodies in the paintings and just showing the skeletons, that eliminates the room for anyone to judge someone since we are all truly the same on the inside.
    Overall, I think you did a great job creating a piece of artwork that causes a lot of beautiful interpretation as well as representing the topics we have discussed in this class!

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