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James Canning

James R. Canning, who became Deaf at age 8, grew up in a small town in Pennsylvania and was educated in the public school system.  He attended Adelphi University, New York, where he was a chemistry major and never thought of art seriously until he took a required art class.  In 1962, after a year at Adelphi, he dropped out but continued to educate himself at public libraries.

In 1965, Mr. Canning moved to Rhode Island and took courses in illustration at the Rhode Island School of Design.  He exhibited his works in summer shows, and "a couple of" solo exhibits.  At this time, he met Tom Willard, the founder of Deaf Artists of America, who told him of the greater range of opportunities available at RIT/ NTID.  Mr. Canning then moved to Rochester, NY and resumed full-time schooling as a painting major.  He received his BFA in Painting-Illustration from RIT in May, 1993.

Still a resident of Rochester, Mr. Canning is attempting to enter the field of juvenile book illustration, and has hopes of doing some creative writing.

Artist's Statement:

"I am not too sure about a separate genre of Deaf art.  Deafness obviously sometimes influences my work.  Sometimes there is scarcely a trace of any attitudes and beliefs caused by deafness.  These works all come from the same person, myself, and I am at no time deliberately thinking of expressing deafness in my art.  I see my work as coming from the person under the deafness, that is deafness is an influence but, ... the deafness is not myself. ... The deafness sometimes shows, sometimes not.  It depends on how much influence deafness has had on the concepts I am presenting in the painting."

"My painting stopped about midway through my RIT/NTID education, and has never returned. Efforts to paint as I did in the 80's produce quite lifeless work. I guess that painting served a purpose at that time, which is no longer necessary or effectively expressed in painting.

"I have spent a lot of time since 1994 studying computer graphic arts apps, especially PageMaker and Photoshop. I also learned a great deal about howcomputers work!

"However, very determined efforts to get a job, even via services for the deaf, have totally failed and I have given up on that.

"After years of concentrating on computers, I'm drifting back towards making things with my hands. So far, I've made or fixed some small wood items, and I'm learning hand woodworking tools. It's much more satisfying than computer practice, because it deals with real things that will last longer than I do. As my mother says, 'making memories.'"