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Opulent Mobility: Making Assistive Devices Fabulous & Fun

“It’s great that you have all these assistive devices that can help you out. Do they have to look that awful?”

When Laura A. Brody’s partner suffered a stroke, Brody got to know the assistive device landscape. She learned that while wheelchairs, walkers and the like do their jobs well, they’re ugly — insultingly so. Why don’t we trick them out, she wondered?

“Why aren’t they fun, right? Why wouldn’t you want to make these fabulous at every part of your life?” Brody told KCRW.

The answer, she guessed, lies in our discomfort with the idea of disintegration and mortality. “But that’s pretty crappy for the people using them…. It might be pretty cool if we turned them into something desirable, maybe even worthy of envy.” After all, we’re living longer, but we haven’t found cures for the diseases that affect mobility.

So Brody, a costume maker and designer, came up with Opulent Mobility, an international exhibition of assistive device–related art, design and invention that marries fun and whimsy with a “why not?” attitude.

It started with her own designs. “Le Flaneur,” she writes, “is a Victorian-inspired walker with attached parasol, cow horns, compass and a GPS unit…. The hand grips are crowned with crystal doorknobs.”

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Later, Brody invited other artists to submit work to the juried group exhibition. Among those that made the cut:

  • Gini’s “Wheelborne Venus,” a reimagining of Botticelli’s “The Birth of Venus” with Venus’s clam shell reimagined as a winged wheelchair.

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  • Elaine Bereza and Claudia Barreto’s “PeaCane,” a standard aluminum cane and holder beaded and dressed up with peacock feathers.

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  • Laura Darlington’s “The Modern Carriage” (top image), the seat of a fiberglass chair on wheels drawn by toy horses. “I am eager to infuse beauty and whimsy into the utilitarian and intrigued by this opportunity to bring both style and fun to the world of assistive devices,” Darlington writes in her artist’s statement.
  • And from Taiwan,  Sandwishes Studio’s “Legend of Speed”

The show included work by 23 artists from around the world. Her goal, Brody told KCRW.com, was to connect with other artists and designers who might know how to navigate the path to medical licensing and actually make some of the designs available to people who could use them. “You start with the poetry and then you can start to build it.”

Next year, Brody will be inviting submissions from artists, designers and anyone who wants to change the face of mobility. Submissions open March 1, 2017 — to stay tuned, follow Opulent Mobility on Facebook.

“Opulent Mobility is for wheelchair and walker users. It’s also for people who don’t see or hear well. It’s for people using prosthetic limbs, crutches, canes and hearing aids. It’s for all of us who could use a little help, and want that help to have style. Making our world more personal and accessible benefits us all.”

Laura Brody Introduces Opulent Mobility

Hat tip to Improvised Life for alerting us to Opulent Mobility.

Photos: Laura Brody

1 comment
  • Virginia
    REPLY

    I love this article ! Laura Brody is a women after my own heart. As a Recreation Therapist retired,
    I’ve worked in Nursing homes for almost 40 years. I’ve seen the good bad and the ugly of these Mobil devices. I’ve spoken to Physical and occupational Therapist about these ugly devices to no avail.

    Laura you make my heart dance. I paint and embellish Ceramic Art. Also limited embellishing
    on my hand made scarves. By the way I’m 72 and very active. Thank you so much for having the vision to change these mobile devices into something that will make the user a part of the art.

    Bless You,
    Virginia

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