Born genetically deaf into a hearing family in Seattle, WA, in 1949, Ann Silver attended public schools. As professional support services did
not exist, she was not mainstreamed. Her childhood education, she says, "was 90% guesswork, 10% art."
Silver received her BA in Commercial Art from Gallaudet
University and an MA in Deafness [sic] Rehabilitation from New York University in 1977. Along with Betty G. Miller and Harry R. Williams, she has the distinction of being one of the founding members of the
Washington DC-based Deaf Art Movement (DAM) in the 1960s-1970s.
While working as a designer/art director for major book publishing companies in Manhattan, Silver burned the midnight oil as a sign language artist and a
Deaf Studies researcher/writer. In 1979, she and the Museum of Modern Art established a 125-museum consortium program for Deaf visitors, earning a NY Governor's Art Award. She was also a museum docent at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art. Living in Japan as a 1986 Japan-U.S. Friendship Commission Fellow, her pioneering cross-cultural research led to Japanese Deaf Studies.
Silver's artistic background is varied—ranging from
poster art, graphics, drawings, logos and greeting cards to book jackets, Deaftoons and creative direction. A self-taught artist, her work has been exhibited exhibited across the country and abroad, including Stockholm
While Silver's work represents the visual arts wing of the academic Deaf Studies spectrum, she also deals in issues of discrimination. As an oppression theorist, her work includes legal/policy analysis and
identification of system barriers for agencies such as the Washington State Human Rights Commission.
Rumors of my scribbling artwork on the walls inside of my mother's womb could not be
confirmed. Born genetically Deaf, I was blessed with art as a native language-—or it enabled me to communicate with the hearing folk long before I acquired other languages, namely English and American Sign Language
[ASL]. Does that make me trilingual?
My language of art has, over the years, metamorphosed from pictorial grammar to creativity and critical thinking. I turn to art (1) as an artistic expression of the Deaf
Experience—i.e., culture, language, identity and heritage; (2) as a Zen meditation and an aesthetic recreation of the contemplative state in which it allows my thoughts to drift by without grasping at them; (3) as an
emergency back-up whenever the English language gives me semantic anxiety; 94) as an academic study vis-ŕ-vis Deaf Studies; and (5) as a visual weapon to deal with polemical issues and concerns such as stereotyping,
inaccessibility, paternalism, inequality and discrimination on the basis of hearing status (a.k.a. audism).
No matter how you look at it—protest art, political satire, victim art or graphic wit, I do not shy away from
ethical questions or controversy. Having fused scholarship, creativity and sociopolitical philosophy, I truly believe that my being Deaf-with-a-capital-D gives me a greater visual acuity which in turns affects my work,
artistic and otherwise. Deaf Art is my soul, my heart, my conscience.
Copyright ©, 1999, Ann Silver