Dr. Rachel Gadsden FRSA
Expressionist in approach, Gadsden creates solo exhibitions, performances and collaborative social engagement art projects with disabled, vulnerable and mainstream individuals and communities nationally and internationally, through painting, performance, digital film and animation, with the object of developing cross-cultural dialogues considering universal notions of humanity.
At the core of her practice are concerns as to how humankind comes to terms with mortality: by unearthing the unseen, making the invisible visible. Part of that process is about being open about impairment, and working to empower others to find a voice with which to challenge stigma. Ultimately Gadsden’s work is underpinned by themes of fragility and resilience, a shared and positive sense of survival in the face of chronic health conditions, and the politics and mythologies surrounding disability.
Throughout 2020 and 2021 Rachel Gadsden worked with the Mayflower 400 team in Southampton on a number of collaborative projects.
“In a place far away from anyone or anywhere, I drifted off for a moment.”
Inspired by the 1620 Mayflower voyage to the new World and significant historical and contemporary migratory passages, including diaspora journeys refugees have recently taken to escape war and conflict, UK and International disabled artists have created drawings, paintings, sculptures, digital artworks and films, responding to the exhibition’s themes, and to their express personal physical and psychological experiences of displacement.
Rachel Gadsden has worked in collaboration with Mayflower 400 Southampton to present and curate the exhibition, initiating the displacement theme for the artists to respond to. The virtual Displaced exhibition was designed by Rachel and Freddie Meyers in response to the need to create a digital platform for the artworks to be shown on to accommodate the current Covid 19 pandemic restrictions.
Ultimately the huge benefit of creating a virtual exhibition space means that the exhibition can be viewed by Worldwide audiences, which greatly suits the cultural diversity of Displaced Exhibition work and the transnational artistic collaboration. View the online exhibition here
Curation: Rachel Gadsden / Design: Freddie Meyers
What this Storm is All About
The sea and sailing is ever present in artist Rachel Gadsden’s life, and inspired by significant historical and contemporary migrations passages, including the 1620 Mayflower voyage to the new World, the 1816 Medusa voyage to Senegal, and the recent diaspora journeys refugees have, and are still taking to escape war and conflict, Gadsden is exploring sea journeys as a catalyst to create a multimedia exhibition of artworks and a digital performance for early 2021.
Gadsden hopes to capture and record, through art, migration narratives, both the traumatic and celebratory experiences, and the ultimate sense of empowerment and hope that has emerged from historical and contemporary universal displacement and migration to create a more culturally diverse global society.
During 2020, Rachel Gadsden (UK), composer Freddie Meyers (UK), violinist Emily Earl (UK), performance artist Yeung Siu-Fong (Hong Kong) and visual artist Jeremy Hawkes (Australia) worked together to reflect upon the physical and psychological issues of displacement, virus pandemics, immunology and hope.
Bringing together both disabled and mainstream creatives, the collective have been artistically considering the narrative of Deluge in terms of a contemporary migration. The artists and musicians have been narratively considering how the Covid-19 pandemic has fractured and shifted all of our lives on one level or another. We may not have literally all have migrated, but through the ravishes of the pandemic, we have all felt displaced to some degree or another, as we learn to exist, and live our lives differently, in our new found Covid World.
Between January – March 2021, in partnership with Rachel Gadsden and the New Carnival Company, a skills development course with four Southampton-based D/deaf and disabled artists was delivered. The scheme provided seven online training sessions for artists from any discipline to develop or extend skills in their community engagement practice. There was a particular focus on delivering online and to participants with diverse needs.
Four artists received training from The New Carnival Company and four mentoring sessions from Rachel Gadsden. Read more about the professional development course
Workshops for visually impaired young people
During Easter 2021, Rachel led a series of workshops for visually impaired / disabled young people in the Southampton area. The art workshops were created to enable individuals with visual impairment, or any other disability, to create sculptures based on themes relating to the story of the Mayflower ship and the passengers who departed from Southampton to travel to America in August 1620.