Rein Brooks, a young Twin Cities artist, has been selected as one of 15 Outstanding Young Artists with Disabilities in the 16th annual “Electrify!” Exhibition. This Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program is sponsored by the Kennedy Center, Volkswagen Group of America and the VSA Emerging Young Artists Program to recognize and showcase the work of emerging young artists living with disabilities, ages 16-25. The Electrify! artworks offer a conduit for creative reflection on personal and shared histories, from revisiting formative events in one’s childhood, to strengthening a community and sense of belonging. Their narratives, exploring the triumphs and tensions of the “now” and invoking unity and inclusivity, will be displayed in venues across the United States.
Rein Brooks’ interactive sculpture “Angel” (2016, synthetic hair, plywood, paint, graphite powder, 96”x33”x29”) is a means to inhabit a body other than one’s own. In this piece, Brooks uses a literal representation of their own hair, which has thinned, become brittle, been cut, and regrown through health fluctuations. The piece invites the viewer into a personal tangle of power, vulnerability and erasure. “Angel” is part of a larger series, Gifts, which questions established narratives of illness, identity and gender. It is both magnetic and repulsive—an analogy to Brooks’ experiences living with an eating disorder and gender dysphoria. Brooks, who earned a bachelor’s degree in French and linguistics from Grinnell College and studied studio art, says “Angel’s columnar structure leaves room for a single person to stand or sit within a protective, enclosing space. It is an invitation for the viewer to step inside my body and experience the gratitude and awe I feel for its resilience.”