Date of Award
Master of Fine Arts (MFA)
Joseph A. Segal
If you are disabled or disadvantaged, you will be dismissed and stifled. Few people will actively care for your struggles. As a person with autism, I was deeply fearful of the persecution I had faced throughout my life; it was a fear that followed me with terrifying determination. I desperately wanted to blend into society. So I designed myself to be devoid of any weakness, and productivity was the way I chose to conceal any difficulties I faced. It was a way to measure my success — a way to measure my normalcy.
Standard medical textiles are generic, cumbersome devices. They are also hyper-visible and instantly identifiable. Meant to support the wearer, they become the “Judas” — the betrayer illuminating a medical condition. Individuals with assistive textiles often must trade privacy as the price for using their device. This sacrifice discourages individuals from using their medical wear and can have dangerous consequences on both mental and physical health. Many individuals, much like I did, have and will choose to forego their conspicuous assistive devices to avoid persecution — for the sake of normalcy.
This book is imbued with a set of ethics. Most artists pull from personal experiences to fuel the creative process. In a way, I’ve always regarded a studio practice as the product of a deep-seated need to advocate for one’s spirit. However, looking out into the world, I never saw my interests reflected back. I struggled to come to terms with my nature as an autistic individual, and hesitated to name myself an artist. I now know that an artist can work with a set of morals and values, rather than a set grouping of materials. In this instance, I name my moral compass as my medium. I approach this thesis journey with the same fervor and honesty that I have always approached my studio practice, irrespective of my chosen expertise in knitted textiles.
It is my strong belief that an ineffective solution is almost just as bad as the problem. There is no mechanical, material, intellectual, or creative limit in textiles that prevents designers from producing assistive textiles that are both physically and emotionally supportive. If I cannot find what I am looking for in the world, then I will make it happen myself. I imagine supportive textiles, simultaneously clothing and medical devices, that return autonomy to the wearer. These textiles are designed with the human in mind. They heal physically and emotionally, while being visually captivating — fully reflecting the wearer’s sense of self.
Zeitoun, Julie-Louise, "The Meaning of A Choice" (2023). Masters Theses. 1130.
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