I’ve passed my one year mark, and have met my “firsts.” Not only the first holidays and birthdays and anniversaries, but also things like the first time I saw sushi in the store and thought “I’ll get some for Betty” then burst into tears; the first time I was watching TV coverage of gay marriage issues and realized it’s not “our fight” anymore, because “we” wouldn’t be getting married; the first cats that came into my life after Betty died and I couldn’t bond with them right away because they weren’t part of my family— because they didn’t know Betty.
Friends have asked how I’m doing and I’m never quite sure what to say. This year has been a time for crawling into my shell, working to take care of myself and let myself grieve. Every once in awhile I poke my head out, look around online and try to reconnect with my world. Then I disappear again. Society seems to think that I need to move on quickly, to embrace the future. In the past, traditional societies mandated a one-year grieving period. Friends who have gone through similar grief have told me to be gentle with myself, that it took them a year-and-a-half to two years to slowly put the grief aside. That’s the journey I’m on, but I get impatient sometimes. The sadness hasn’t gone away, and might never do so. But as time goes on, I don’t mind carrying it as much.
The photo shown is the last photo taken of Betty, November 18, 2012. Brenda Schertz came for a short visit and I’m so glad she said she wanted a picture of us.
Originally, friends and I scheduled a memorial service for Betty today, December 7th. Since I didn’t advertise the date, I didn’t post that it was being postponed for the second time. We just couldn’t get ourselves together enough to plan this. But the third time should work, and we’re making plans for a memorial for Betty in April. More details soon.
One of the things I did this summer was work with people from the art department of “Glee!” — the FOX TV show. They wanted to use one of Betty’s paintings, “Celebration of Hands.” Well, this painting has a story– it’s lost!
Before I get into that story, let me tell you that I gave the set designers permission to use an image of the painting, and a couple of photos, the ones shown here. They told me the episode is going to air on Thursday, September 26, 2013 at 9 PM, and the only thing they mentioned is that the painting will be on the wall at a Deaf school. Well, I just checked the FOX website, and their season opening show is about the Beatles, and to my knowledge there’s nothing “Deaf” about the Beatles, so perhaps the episodes have been switched around. I’ll find out and post an update here.
Updates 9/26 — It’s On!
I’ve heard back from several people, and yes! It’s on tonight! I got a message from Michelle Collier, the Art Department Coordinator for “Glee!” who wrote: “Yes, the episode that airs tonight includes the scene with Betty’s art. They enter the School for the Deaf when they are looking for help during one of the Beatles numbers. I’m not sure how much of the artwork is seen in the final cut, but definitely check it out!”
I also heard from my friend Janne Harrelson who wrote: “My understanding is that one of the rival choirs on the show will be a Deaf choir, performing the Beatles’ song “All You Need is Love” in ASL.”
And from another friend, Patti Durr: “Looks like it will be on tonight….’Glee’ premiere features deaf choir Graduate student Thomas Korn will appear in the season premiere of Fox’s Glee on Thursday, September 26 at 9 p.m. as a member of a rival choir, The Haverbrooks—the all-deaf choir, as they perform the Beatles song “All You Need is Love” in American Sign Language.” Patti continued: “Someone else emailed me and said they know Tommy – the Deaf actor – and he says he saw the artwork during the filming. Ya hoo!”
“Celebration of Hands” was done in 1987 from a slide taken at an event at Spectrum: Focus on Deaf Artists that happened in 1978 or ’79. Betty often worked by first projecting a slide onto the canvas, and doing a prelimiary paint sketch based on the slide. She would finish the work without the slide projector, making changes as she went along. When it was done, this painting hung in our home in DC, opposite the front door so it was often the first thing seen when people entered.
I’m not sure what year– I have a lot of old info to wade through!– a buyer for corporate art contacted Betty. Sprint had received a contract for Maryland Relay Service operations and were looking for artwork for their corporate office in Baltimore. Betty sent them information on several paintings and they picked this one, bought it and had it shipped to Sprint. I can’t remember if we went to see it in place, but I think we did. I have a vague memory of a huge lobby and the painting was hung there, not up in the office of Sprint itself.
A few years later, Sprint lost the contract for Maryland Relay Service and moved its office. Betty contacted Mike Baer, who used to work at Sprint in Baltimore, and asked what happened to the painting but he didn’t know. He asked around, but nobody knew.
When Glee! designers asked for permission to use the painting, I went on a search for a good photo, and I can’t find one! The one they had was from NTID/RIT’s Deaf Artists website, which is a clear photo (shown above), but the color is wrong. I finally found a photo that had the correct colors, but it’s only a detail (just part of the painting), out of focus and dirty (shown at right). And those two are all I can find. Michelle Collier, the Art Department Coordinator for Glee! that I worked with told me they could probably recreate the image with a high enough resolution to have it printed, and asked for clearance for the image.
Know Where It Is?
I would love to know what happened to this painting. If anyone does know, or has seen it since the early 1990s, please tell me using the comments to this blog. One thing I would like to do is get a good photo for Betty’s archives!
You see that center figure with the cap? That was Chuck Baird, another famous Deaf Artist who was at Spectrum in the late ’70s.
Today would have been Betty’s 79th birthday
What do I call this? The 79th anniversary of her birth? Isn’t that what a birthday is anyway? All you writer and librarian friends out there can let me know.
It’s a difficult day, because I miss her. But I’m working at carrying on. One of the things I did to honor her today was donate money to send Deaf artists to Russia. They’ve been invited by the Russian Federation of the Deaf to participate in an international art exhibition, ”The World is Heard by the Soul.” They have until August 15th to complete the fundraising, so please help if you can. Their page on GoFundMe includes information, a video, and photos of some of the art work they will exhibit, http://www.gofundme.com/USADeafArtists, so go take a look.
I took our dog, Tucker, for a walk, but it was hot and he wouldn’t cooperate, and I couldn’t get a good picture of us. So I took a photo of me at home. Just as a way of marking the passing of time. I’m very slowly getting to the point of smiling at the memories, and not crying as much for my loss. It’ll take a while longer, but I know Betty would want me to make the best of the time I have on this earth without her. I’m so grateful that she shared her life with me, it’s made me a better person.
I’m also cleaning out my mailing list and will start sending out occasional newsletters again. I sent out an email last night, and 51 of you have changed your email address. If you didn’t get last night’s message, and want to get future ones, you can use the sign-up link on this page, upper right, that reads “Subscribe to Purple Swirl Arts by Email.”
Thank you all for your support and love through the years. — Nancy C.
Today I become 60.
It’s the first birthday since Betty died, but I’ve got my memories. Betty’s 60th birthday was fun. We had a bunch of women over and we all drew, painted and pasted papers that were then put up on a large painting that Betty had started. Not everyone there was an artist, in fact most weren’t, and some women who wanted to be there couldn’t make it but were represented on the final painting. We all felt like we were back in art class in grade school, it was just fun. Betty and I finished off the painting when they left, and I still have it.
My own special birthday is much simpler, because while Betty was an extrovert, I’m an introvert— not shy, but other people drain me of energy if I spend too much time with a crowd. So I’m spending a little time with my brother, then Tucker and I are going to one of my best friends’ house to hang out with her and her husband and eat Thai food. Once home again, I’ll probably watch TV and do some work for the second part of my day.
Work? Yeah, I usually work late at night for several hours— I’m writing a book about Betty. There! I’ve said it to all of you, not just a few friends. Now I’ve got to follow through, right? I actually started the book last summer, before Betty died unexpectedly. One time when I was writing, Betty came into my office, saw a photo of her mother from the 1920s and asked me what I was doing with it. I told her that I started this book about her, and would put the photo of her mother in it. (It was the second time I told her about the book.) Her response? “What’s so special about me?” I rattled off a few things, such as she was the first woman graduate from Gallaudet to get a doctoral degree; the “mother” of De’VIA, Deaf View Image Art, a genre where the artist intentionally expresses their deaf experience; co-founder of Spectrum, Focus on Deaf Artists, an artist’s colony in Texas; first deaf executive director of DCARA, Deaf Counseling, Advocacy and Referral Agency in Oakland, CA; first deaf counselor for deaf recovering alcoholics and substance abusers— and that’s only what I could remember immediately. Her response was a simple “Oh, wow.” Then she turned and left. It broke my heart to see her lose part of her identity to the slow erosion of her memory.
The actress Jane Fonda, in her recent book entitled Prime Time, calls the 60s the beginning of the third act of your life. I like that. Despite the fact that I’m not an actress, I can relate to that image. The first third of your life, birth to 30, is the time of growing and discovery, and making a lot of mistakes trying to figure out who you are and what you want to do with yourself. Then from 30 to 60, the second act, is traditionally when we are most productive, and the third act, age 60 and beyond, is leisure and decline. She challenges us change the view of aging to also be a time of working and learning and being productive— because we want to.
For me, the first act is where I grew up hard of hearing and discovered American Sign Language and deaf people and began to gain my Deaf identity. My second act is when I fell in love with Betty at age 33, and also when I worked at Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID), Gallaudet University, then National Association of the Deaf (NAD)— three of the most prominent organizations in the Deaf World, full of mostly good and a few bad experiences and a lot of learning and growing.
Now I enter my third act. I’m sad that Betty’s not here for my 60th birthday, and that she won’t see any of my Act III. But her memory, her love, and her energy are still powering me.
I’ve often told people that to an artist there’s no such thing as “retire.” Generally, creative people work their entire lives because they want to. I’m working on making my Act III as creative, productive, and wise as I can. That’s the best way I can honor Betty’s memory, by becoming even more of what she helped me become, and what she loved about me.
I recently watched the All-ASL version of Switched at Birth, called “Uprising” for the second time– just a couple of hours before it expired on Hulu and ABC Family websites. I don’t normally watch the program but only because I’m not interested in teen and family relationship dramas— I’m a sci-fi and mystery fan. I don’t really know very much about the who’s who, or the background to the story— only that the two teenage girls, Daphne (deaf, played by a hard of hearing actress, Katie LeClerc) and Bay (hearing, played by Vanessa Marano) were switched in the hospital at birth and their families didn’t find out until they were teenagers.
This episode, “Uprising,” is about the decision to close Carlton School for the Deaf for financial reasons, and the student uprising refers to, and mirrors, the Deaf President Now (DPN) protest at Gallaudet University in 1988. What’s ground-breaking about the episode is it forces hearing people to “walk in our shoes” for an hour because as the two actresses explain in the beginning, after the first scene, there is no voicing, and there’s nothing wrong with the TV set. All hearing, non-signing viewers need to read the captions to understand what’s going on.
Hand-waves to the courage of the producers (seven of them!), director, actors, and all involved. I’m deaf from a hearing family, and I know that the absence of sound on a TV can be nerve-wracking for a hearing person. This was a brave experiment.
You may think that many hearing people watch subtitled foreign language movies, so this isn’t a big deal. But subtitles are very different from captions, because subtitles assume that you can hear the film. You know when the phone rings, or someone knocks on the door, or the police have arrived in siren-screaming cars. We don’t. Those sounds are included in the captions because such environmental noises help to carry the story (as the ending of this episode makes clear).
One of the things that wasn’t clear to me as a deaf viewer, though, was how far the “no vocalization” rule went. For example, Daphne enters the Kennish house to meet with Bay, and without knowing it sets off an alarm. The entire family (all hearing) rushes in upset, looking for what’s wrong, and turns off the alarm. Bay’s brother explains, and the family signs to Daphne, but before that there’s no sound? They are upset and running around and their mouths are moving, and there’s no sound, no voicing? That’s very unnatural. Especially because environmental sounds are included in the production. I know because they are captioned— closed captioned separately from the main captions of the episode. But there were no captions during this scene.
Inconsistencies like this let me know that the production, for all it’s focus on ASL-only, was really for hearing people. If there was no sound, and the scene was shot as a deaf person would experience it, seeing the mouths moving silently, then there wouldn’t be closed-captions for the background sounds. Because there would be no background sound, just silence.
Another thing, one I mentioned in an earlier post, is that in order to follow the story, deaf people also need to be reading the captions, not just watching the signs. The reason we have to read the captions, is that in several scenes the signs would move off-camera, or the focus would be on a reaction shot where we couldn’t see the signs at all. This made it obvious that the episode had a hearing director, and hearing people behind the camera. I read that Marlee Matlin, who has a prominent role as a teacher, was also the director but that was a mistake. The director was Steve Miner, whose credits include many shows I’ve enjoyed. A deaf director wouldn’t have filmed signs off camera, though, because to deaf people communication is the first priority.
One time I watched it, I mostly read it; the other time, I mostly watched the signs. I do read quickly, but it was really hard to take everything in at once, so I’m glad I was able to watch it twice online on Hulu.
One of the things I really liked was that the signs and the English words didn’t always match up exactly— this is how it should be because ASL isn’t the same as English.
I couldn’t find a credit for signmaster for this episode. Mistakes popped up. The signmaster (also known at times as sign language coach or ASL master) functions in part like a editor for a book, to make sure that the best signs and sign phrases are used appropriately for the thought being expressed.
Being a writer and editor myself, I know from experience that you often see what you know or expect, rather than what’s there in front of your eyes, like this Pinterest post at right shows. At one point, Principal Rose, played by Carlease Burke, tells someone to call the fire department. I didn’t see the sign for that. Perhaps it was a local sign for “fire department” and one I don’t know. In a different scene, Noah tells Daphne that he’s nervous about kissing her onstage (they are performing Romeo and Juliet) for different reasons including, “our braces could lock up.” Daphne responds that neither of them has braces. Trouble is, I know that from the captions— what I saw Daphne sign was pretty much “we both have braces.” I didn’t see any negation in her sentence. These are the kinds of things, like “clams” that someone closely involved with the show can overlook. Signmasters are vitally important.
One of the issues brought up in the opening scene wasn’t addressed, and I hope they discuss this next season. Bay (hearing) is attending the deaf school, and she signs. She’s dating a hard of hearing signer who also goes to that school. This is part of a pilot program (and sorry, I can’t explain more because I don’t watch the show regularly). She finds out that she’s on what I would call the dean’s list, but it seems to have a different name here. She’s shocked, she never did well in school before. Well, her success is because she’s hearing in a deaf school. It doesn’t mean the deaf students are stupid, but they have had less access to information around them because they don’t overhear things, among many other reasons.
The following episode, called “Introducing the Miracle” did, however, address a different issue. After the protest, a reporter is calling out questions to the students and Bay says something to this effect— you know they are deaf, don’t you? Reporter says, “But you’re not…” and asks a question that Bay answers. Of course, that’s what’s written up in the papers, and Daphne gives Bay a hard time about speaking for them. Bay’s mad, she doesn’t understand, but others tell her Daphne’s right, that deaf people have a long history of hearing people speaking for them.
This episode, the season finale that aired on March 11th (and is on Hulu until 3/25/13), also brings up the idea of hearing students being admitted– up to 50%! When I was researching this post, I saw that on their website, they had (I can’t find it again) a poll asking if Carlton should allow hearing students into the school. I saw the poll before I saw the spring finale and I was thinking it over. I’ve known a lot of Codas— Children of Deaf Adults— and some of them really function better visually. Because their first language is ASL, they learn better visually than aurally, and would be better educated in a deaf environment. But then I saw the finale, and saw that they were talking about up to 50%, non-signing hearing students. Bodies, really, because the school can’t afford to stay open without them. While the deaf students would stay together and not be shipped to different schools, they’d be back in a deaf ghetto, and the hearing students would have the power, their needs would be met first. So I voted, via Twitter, to Keep Carlton Deaf. The last time I saw the poll, though, there were more votes for allowing hearing students into the school than not.
I’m very glad that the decision makers for this show didn’t wrap up the protest story in one episode. These are really deep issues and people need time to wrap their heads around these ideas. Overall, I’m really impressed with the show and think they’ve done a terrific job.
We were there 25 years ago, when the campus erupted into rebellion and protest. I was working at Gallaudet at the time, for ENFI Project, a computer lab set up for teaching English on a networked computer system. As part of my job, I managed the student assistants we hired to work with the classes, teaching the students how to use the software and solving network problems. It was because of the respect and friendship of those students that I knew what was going on. Why? Because I was stuck at work.
The weather was gorgeous– clear, sunny, warm spring days. Spring felt like it’d come early that year. Betty and I had just had a commitment ceremony two weeks before and we were still riding high on the emotions from that.
I remember that we– all of us who studied or worked at the university, and probably the entire deaf community in the DC area– were vitally interested in the Board meeting. The former president of Gallaudet, Dr. Jerry C. Lee, was leaving for a new job and the Board was scheduled to chose a new president. The choice had come down to three people, two deaf men and one hearing woman who’d never had any experience with deaf people before. The discussions among our friends centered on what kind of leaders the two deaf men, Dr. Harvey Corson and Dr. I. King Jordan, would be. None of us gave Dr. Elizabeth Zinser a second thought. It was time. Gallaudet University and its precursors (Kendall School, Columbia Institution for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind and National College for the Deaf and Dumb and Blind) had been run by hearing men for over 125 years. It was time for deaf to lead deaf.
I remember the incredulity we felt when Dr. Zinser’s appointment was announced. I thought I was not understanding, that I was getting misinformation. Our hearing friends, those who weren’t connected to the college, had a similar feeling of incredulity– they had assumed that Gallaudet and deaf schools and institutions were run by deaf people. They thought that was a given. Black colleges had been run by African American educators for generations; women’s colleges were run by women. But by the late 1980s, paternalism towards deaf people was so deeply ingrained, the oppression so long institutionalized, that deaf education was still a field where power lay with those who could hear.
The protest started the week before Spring Break, and continued through it. When the students (and supportive alumni, faculty and staff who guided them) closed the campus I was worried that they wouldn’t let me in. But some of the students who worked at ENFI project with me were part of the core group and let me through. They knew that I was working on a funding proposal. Actually, my boss, Dr. Trent Batson, a hearing man, was writing the proposal while he was at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, where he was working on a similar project. We were sending proposal items to each other through email. My student assistants were coming to the lab to visit me at work and keep me informed, and I, in turn, was keeping him informed. I would have liked to ditch work, but the funders weren’t part of the deaf community, their work was not being disrupted, and the deadline was firm.
I was able to attend some of the events, though, and share in the emotional euphoria when the news was good, and corresponding torment when it wasn’t. Betty and I were there for the rally calling for a Deaf President Now, chanting in signs with the students; we were there in the field house when we all pounded the floorboards with our feet and drowned out the hearing board members and Dr. Zinser while they were trying to give a speech. After all, if they could sign, the noise wouldn’t have been a problem. We were there when the National Association of the Deaf executive director ended a speech saying “Let’s go!” and we all followed him to the Mayflower Hotel where the Board members had moved their meeting because they couldn’t get onto the campus. But I wasn’t there for the famous march to the Capitol– I was on a bus going across town to deliver the proposal I’d spent most of the week proofreading, printing and collating.
It’s one of the few regrets I have, missing that march, and it led to one of the biggest arguments Betty and I ever had. She was there on the march, at least for part of it, and was missing me.
I remember being so torn between my duty to my job, and my desire to be part of the crowd. The crowd was so exciting and we knew it was history-making. But the crowd didn’t need me, and my job did. I was the only one who could have delivered those papers because Trent was in Pittsburgh, and the students were heavily involved in the protest. Yes, ENFI Project did get the funding, which means that Gallaudet got the funding, in part because I chose to work that day.
I’ve been watching the videos posted by Joey Baer (http://www.joeybaer.com/), seeing all the familiar faces, remembering the feelings. I’m struck by how much of the news footage isn’t captioned. In 1988, closed captioning had been around for a decade, but it still wasn’t implemented 100% and so much of the news about us excluded us. Yes, some of it was captioned, and some had interpreters in the corner of the screen. But so much more of the footage didn’t.
Seeing Harvey Goodstein, a faculty member at Gallaudet at the time, on the videos reminded me of something he said. Betty and I were in the ENFI computer lab at Hall Memorial Building and we ran into Harvey in the hall. He told Betty that when she stood up years before at faculty senate meetings and protested a new phrase developed by the audiology department, the phrase “hearing-impaired,” and when she showed people how oppression felt through her artwork, she was way ahead of the times. It touched my heart when Harvey then said, “Betty, we’ve finally caught up with you!”
There’s an all-ASL episode of “Switched at Birth” airing March 4th at 8 pm on ABC Family channel. It’s supposed to have no sound, meaning no voicing, I don’t know about music or ambient sound. A TV show without any sound will be very disconcerting for the hearing audience. That might be the point.
It does have open captions for everyone to follow along. But what I’ve seen of the deaf perspective in online comments is that there’s finally a show where we can sit back and watch the signs, and hearing people watch the captions. They will get an idea of what it’s like to really read TV— subtitled movies are different because people can hear the voices and background noises in foreign language films.
However, and I’m nit-picking here, I can see from the clips online that the director and camera people are hearing. There are several times when the signs are cut out of the frame and to know, rather than guess or lipread the video, we deafies will also have to read the captions. Regardless, this is groundbreaking TV. If you’re busy Monday night, you can catch the episode online at Hulu and ABC Family websites. More info here: http://beta.abcfamily.go.com/shows/switched-at-birth/blogs/Season-2/Switched-at-Births-All-American-Sign-Language-Episode