Back to the Roots: Chella’s Design Cover
Chella Man is a 23-year-old American artist, actor, model, and disabled and LGBTQ+ educator and speaker. He uses social media to talk about his personal experiences with gender dysphoria and identity. He is also one of the four artists behind our latest limited-edition design covers. Today, Chella gives us some more insights into his life as a bilateral cochlear implant user and the connection between his childhood and his design cover masterpiece.
My name is Chella Man, I am an artist based in Brooklyn, New York. My work deals with the continuum of different binaries inclusive of gender, sexuality, race, and disability. I use a wide variety of different mediums and I actively talk about inclusivity and accessibility and how to move forward to a more equitable future in general.
Deaf in a Hearing Environment
I was born deaf into a hearing family and a hearing environment, which means that I had no role models and no mentors that could have supported me during my childhood. When I was 12 years old, I got my cochlear implants. At that time, I was struggling to communicate, which was especially hard during my time in school. I understood that getting a CI would be the only option for me to have full access to society.
Full Access to the World With CIs
Today, my cochlear implants allow me to have full access to the world around me. I feel like I have an unfolding relationship with my CIs and love to have the possibility to choose whether I use them or not. For me, sound means access to the world around me, and sometimes I prefer to be by myself.
I’m so thankful for the option of having cochlear implants because I do believe I would have been very isolated and deprived of human interaction without them. I can now also communicate in sign language and I’m very grateful for both options.
Expressing Emotions Through Art
I found my love for art at a very young age when I only had a pen and paper. Doodling and creating things from essentially nothing made me happy, and when I got older, my resources grew. As my understanding of art expanded, I started to explore and make films and sculptures. My mediums expand all the time.
I believe art is one of the few ways we have left in the world to express ourselves in a way that isn’t transactional. You can create art just for yourself, without any meaning, and it can be liberating to create something simply to express your emotions. That’s why art is so crucial and timeless. In my own art, I also love having a message or a deeper meaning to it.
The Inspiration for My Art
My major inspiration for my art fluctuates all the time. I could already have a topic, or I get inspired by something I see during the day. Usually, there is something specific that I want to convey, whether that’s an experience as a deaf or a trans individual or a person of color, it really depends. I either know what I want it to look like or I approach it with only a concept in mind.
Being a deaf individual is inseparable from my identity and shows up through my art. For example, some of my figures have cochlear implants, some of them deal with experiences of being deaf and a lot of my concepts and ideas are formulated through my experience moving through the world as a deaf individual.
Navigating the World
With my design cover, I wanted to go back to the roots of my art, which are just pen and paper and doodling.
This is what kept me grounded and sane during my tough childhood when I had to cope with hearing loss and learn how to navigate it without any mentors or help. This feeling of navigating the world all by myself is what I am expressing with my design cover.
It’s such an honor to imagine someone wearing my design on their audio processor. It fills my heart with so much joy and it’s a dream come true to connect with other implant users through my own art.
Building Communities and History Through Art
My artistic dream is to create connections between all artists and build the queer, disabled, and BIPOC-communities. I think it’s very hard to find BIPOC and disabled artists in general, not because we don’t exist, but because unfortunately there are not many designated places for our communities.
My message to other people who have a disability or an obstacle in their life is to create more art and express yourself. I believe the word “artist” is a very expansive term. If you ever feel joyful, frustrated, angry, or euphoric—I want to encourage you to experiment with your emotions and find out what it would look like as art. You can express it in a poem, a drawing, or a sculpture.
Disabled individuals have always existed, but not all our work and history have been documented, which is why I would like to encourage you to help our community rebuild the history that we have lost.
Thank you, Chella!
You can win the limited-edition design covers in a competition in July. Stay tuned for more details to come!
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