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Los Osos artist Ed Chandler depicts the struggle to belong at SLOMA exhibit

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The images of the children stayed with him.

Visions of children and their parents drowning in the Mediterranean Sea, hanging lifeless from barbed wire, or otherwise being blocked from a safe place to create a home. Those stuck with Los Osos artist Ed Chandler so long, that when he was asked to contribute a piece to the San Luis Obispo Museum of Art's (SLOMA) show, Home Sweet Home, Chandler painted a piece called Barriers. It speaks to the weary searcher—whether from Mexico, Syria, or beyond—looking for a safe harbor.

CROSSING Barriers, by Los Osos artist Ed Chandler, depicts the struggle of immigrants to gain access to a safe place to call home. - IMAGE COURTESY OF SLOMA
  • Image Courtesy Of SLOMA
  • CROSSING Barriers, by Los Osos artist Ed Chandler, depicts the struggle of immigrants to gain access to a safe place to call home.

Chandler knows a lot about barriers. In 1969 he was involved in a car accident that led to a loss of mobility and also impacted how quickly he can talk.

"I'm basically one-handed at this point," Chandler said. "It's given me a different perspective on what people can and can't do."

In fact, the Home Sweet Home show exclusively depicts the work of California artists with disabilities, with the hope to create a more inclusive art community.

"Seeing the colorful ways people with disabilities process life pushes us to consider how others see the world," SLOMA curator Ruta Saliklis said in a statement. "These compelling moments exercise our empathy and imagination while helping adults with disabilities explore art making on their own terms, by their own standards, with their own abilities."

While the entirety of the current SLOMA building isn't accessible to all people with disabilities, director Karen Kile said that the new building, which is in the planning stages, will be accessible to all. Kile said they hope to break ground on the new building sometime in 2019.

"SLOMA will have the modern equipment and newest technology to do many more remarkable things for people of all ages and backgrounds," Kile said.

Chandler's been painting since childhood, though manipulating a paintbrush became more difficult after his car accident. Still, after the Cal Poly alumnus retired from a career in architecture, Chandler explored creating in charcoal, pastel, acrylic, watercolor, and more.

MOVING THROUGH IT Despite being in a car crash years ago that severely impacted his mobility, Los Osos artist Ed Chandler paints regularly and attends weekly classes at the SLO Museum of Art. - PHOTO COURTESY OF ED CHANDLER
  • Photo Courtesy Of Ed Chandler
  • MOVING THROUGH IT Despite being in a car crash years ago that severely impacted his mobility, Los Osos artist Ed Chandler paints regularly and attends weekly classes at the SLO Museum of Art.

He describes his painting, Borders, as "very graphic." The somewhat abstract piece features the outline of a person leaping from one spot to another. The person hasn't safely landed yet, and rough depictions of barbed wire, along with dark streaks of red, black, and a metallic gray, imply that the moment of safe passage may never come. Children being detained and separated from their parents at the border between the U.S. and Mexico, and tiny Syrian hands clinging onto flimsy rafts as the ocean waves crashed down, stayed in Chandler's mind as he painted Barriers.

"They were struggling to get to their home sweet home," Chandler said. "People are imagining a home or striving to get to a home that they don't yet know. It speaks to trying to break through the barriers of discrimination."

Social justice and the environment (both natural and manmade) inspire Chandler's work.

"I would like people to look at the art and think a bit more about immigration and people struggling to be free," Chandler said. "Also I want them to take away that people with disabilities also have something worthwhile to say." Δ

Arts Writer Ryah Cooley supports inclusivity. Contact her at rcooley@newtimesslo.com.

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