Maya Angelou said: “I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
Michelle Baharier’s exhibition explores this narrative. In her body of work entitled ‘How do I make you feel?’ she invites the viewer to gaze at brilliantly coloured portraits, encouraging reflection on their own emotional state. Her art addresses the many barriers that she and others face, some due to disability discrimination and prejudice. Her powerful paintings are vibrant, creating emotionally charged pieces, that encourage the viewer to have a dialogue with the images.
In this exhibition Baharier is also showcasing a number of portraits of disabled people who have changed society, including Baroness Jane Campbell of Surbiton, who is a life peer and has an ambition is to turn peoples assumptions of disabled people upside down, she champions legislation to improve disabled people’s rights to lead independent lives. Above is Sue Elsegood, who chained herself to buses and notably stated, ‘We can put a person on the Moon, why can’t we get a wheelchair on a bus?’ Both activists describe themselves as freedom fighters
Other work includes ‘My name is Medusa’ – an image of a women screaming at the top of her voice. Women in Iran are being killed as they have no rights, this painting is a response to that. Baharier’s animated expressive use of colour brings out the passion in her paintings, bringing to life the difficult positions we find ourselves in. Baharier is disabled and from a family of refugee which informs her subject matter. Due to life’s ups and downs, Baharier has also had to deal with 11 legal cases and faced discrimination every time due to her disability. Her response is ‘I do what I do out of necessity’.
The exhibition includes paintings commissioned by Disability Arts Online in 2021, including: Jess Thom who runs Tourette’s Hero, John Pring a journalist who produces Disability News Service, Katherine Araniello: live art, performance and video artist who died in 2019 and was a very close and dear friend. Penny Pepper a fellow creative writer and journalist for the Guardian and the By-line times and Liz Carr, disabled actor and activist.
Baharier will also be displaying her Walkie-Talkie project, made using digital collages to explore people’s experiences of using buses and focussed on physical and mental accessibility. The project was funded by Arts Council England and is also permanently housed at the London Transport Museum and Disability Arts Online YouTube channel.
Baharier is best known for founding CoolTan Arts, an Arts and mental health charity, famous for its Largactyl Shuffle Walks of which she was the co-founder. Baharier ran Midnight Walks that took audience on a vivacious live performance of myth and fact, from the power house to the mad house. She has work in the Tate Archive, the London transport museum and has won 27 awards to her work.
Baharier is a graduate from the Slade School of Fine Art, Exeter College of Art & Design and an exchange student at Hochschule für Bildende, Künste Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The Artist is available for commissions, workshops and talks