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BREA : Challenge No Handicap to These Artists

October 03, 1994|ALAN EYERLY

The imagination and resourcefulness of disabled American artists, some of whom cannot see or hold a paintbrush, is being demonstrated in a multimedia exhibit at the City of Brea Gallery.

"Inspirations: Art by the Physically and Developmentally Challenged" features more than 130 works by 42 artists in the fields of painting, drawing, sculpture and photography.

"I wanted to recognize these artists for their abilities, not their disabilities," gallery director Marie Sofi said. "They don't want to be treated (as) special, they just want to be in the mainstream of society."

Sofi said the success of a similar exhibit at the municipal gallery in 1985 prompted her to revisit and expand on the theme of artists with disabilities. That first show "touched the hearts of a lot of people," she said, including a 16-year-old girl "who had lost an arm and was having a real tough time dealing with it."

"I teamed her up with some of the artists," Sofi said. "Not having experienced this myself (losing a limb), I couldn't say, 'I know what you feel.' "

One of the artists in the current show is Said Abdelsayed, who was paralyzed from the waist down when his back was broken in a 1976 traffic collision. The 40-year-old Tustin resident switched from medical school to art school after the accident, and eventually earned a master's degree in drawing and painting. He also helped found Artability Artists, a Southern California-based group of artists with disabilities.

"Life is still so good," said Abdelsayed, who was married in 1982 and now has two children and a flourishing art career. His expressionistic paintings have been shown across the country in galleries, convention centers and hospitals.

"You don't want to sit on the couch watching TV," he said. "I want people to say, 'If Said can do it, I can do it.' That's the whole point."

"Inspirations" will continue through Oct. 21 at the gallery, 1 Civic Center Circle. For more information on the show and related special events, call (714) 990-7730.

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