An artistic exploration of the true minorities in our society

A dancer from Heidi Latsky Dance performs during the Positive Exposure Pop-up on April 7, 2016 (photo by P. Gaudiano)

Last night I visited the Positive Exposure Pop-up, hosted at the Art Directors Club in Manhattan between April 6 and April 11, 2016. I heard about it from Becky Curran, a friend from my Boston days, who, like me, has recently moved to New York. Becky, among other things, is a motivational speaker whose life is dedicated to helping everyone accept the differences in others.

Positive Exposure was created by Rick Guidotti in 1998, a photographer who realized that people afflicted with genetic disorders and other disabilities possess beauty that too often is ignored. Positive Exposure is a non-profit organization that utilizes visual arts and narrative to transform the perception of people with genetic, physical, intellectual and behavioral differences.

The pop-up makes great use of the spacious venue, with stunning photographs along the two side walls, surrounding a central area where events take place. Last night, we were treated to a presentation and a moving short video about a New York City Ballet workshop designed for children with cerebral palsy. We were also treated to a show by Heidi Latsky Dance, in which dancers in white outfits stationed themselves all around the Center. This was followed by a series of brief presentations by Diversability, a movement that aims to rebrand disability through the power of community.

I found the exhibit stunning on several levels.

The thing that struck me the most, is how ignorant I am about the staggering array of disorders that can afflict people, and the profound impact these disorders can have on the behavior and the appearance of those who are afflicted. Each picture included a brief description of the subject, and named the disorder or condition. Once it got beyond cerebral palsy, dystrophy, albinism, dwarfism and a couple of others, I was completely lost. It is undoubtedly for this reason that the exhibit includes a row of workstations along one wall, where visitors can learn about some of these conditions.

But even more striking was the realization that we, as a society, are so hung up on standard definitions of beauty, and tend to label anyone who does not conform to these standards as ugly or weird, and our actions are often dictated by these norms. Even with the best of intention, when confronted with people who look different, we tend to look away or feel embarrassed.

What I saw last night was human beauty, in its full glory and its full variety.

If you live in New York, I urge you to go visit the Positive Exposure Pop-up in the next few days before it goes away. And if you miss the pop-up, visit positiveexposure.org or mydiversability.com, explore their online galleries, educate yourself, and if you can, become engaged, whether it’s by volunteering your time, donating money to one of these causes, or even simply sharing what you learn with your friends and your social network. At a minimum, the next time you see a person in a wheelchair, or a little person, or someone walking awkwardly, you might realize that they are human beings just like you and me, and they deserve to be treated as such.

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A version of this post also appears on minorhelp.com.

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