Dreamy, out-of-focus black-and-white image of a figure sitting on a bed, hands clasped between their knees.

Issue 17




Bill Jacobson
American, b. 1955
Song of Sentient Beings #1114 (detail), 1994
Gelatin silver print
18.7 x 23.7 cm. (7 3/8 x 9 5/16 in.)
Gift of Glenn Gissler 2020.45.9
© Bill Jacobson



Numerous hazy cream-colored spots with red centers populate a dark brown background.

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In the spirit of increased accessibility, Manual 17 (Variance) is free to read online (below), with print copies available for order.

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Indira Allegra
Emily Banas
Alexandra Courtois de Viçose
Sky Cubacub
Bianca Frohne
Rosemarie Garland-Thomson
Joan Giroux
Leon J. Hilton
Riva Lehrer
K. MacNeil
Robert McRuer
Conor Moynihan
Maureen C. O’Brien
Carmen Papalia
Anand Prahlad
Jaklin Romine
Ellen Samuels
Joey Terrill
Cynthia Wu


Issue 17—Variance


The human variations that we think of as disabilities in the broadest sense occur in every life and family and are a theme in all art and culture. Because these variances endure in human lived experience, we’ve recorded them as a set of stories that we receive, make, and remake over time and across place throughout human history. We might say that disability itself is a story, a record written on the body of flesh encountering world. Disability is a material phenomenon, but it is also a narrative occasion. How we acquire, experience, and live out our disabilities is a story prompt we answer with words, sounds, images, and objects—all of the story-making tools of human culture.

—Rosemarie Garland-Thomson, introduction


Manual 17 considers representations of the disabled and/or ill body in art and visual culture, foregrounding the ways that body-mind variance can inform technique, style, and form. These works range from moralizing and stereotypical historical images to prideful images made by modern and contemporary disabled and/or ill artists. This issue of Manual is a companion to the exhibition Variance: Making, Unmaking, and Remaking Disability, curated by Conor Moynihan, on view at the RISD Museum now through October 9, 2022.


From the Files

Emily Banas provides supporting documentation for the Eames leg splint


Double Takes

Sky Cubacub and Ellen Samuels circle around Lanzavecchia + Wai’s Tattoo Back Brace

Joey Terrill and Cynthia Wu look to Masami Teraoka’s AIDS Series

Maureen C. O’Brien and Carmen Papalia contemplate Thomas Sgouros’s Remembered Landscape

Robert McRuer and Jaklin Romine gaze right back at Robert Andy Coombs’s Cuddle on Couch


Artists on Art

Joan Giroux writes to her friend Matthew

Riva Lehrer navigates Zoom and the hazards of mirror-gazing while making her portrait of Rosemarie Garland-Thomson



Conor Moynihan assembles some things that go together, even if not obviously so


Object Lessons

Alexandra Courtois de Viçose reveals Toulouse-Lautrec’s deaf gain

Leon J. Hilton opens up Michael Mazur’s Images from a Locked Ward

Bianca Frohne crips a medieval statue of St. Roch

Anand Prahlad reflects on Marlon Mullen’s Untitled


How To

Indira Allegra documents disability

K. MacNeil does things with their mouth




RISD Museum Interim Director
and Manual Editor-in-Chief:
Sarah Ganz Blythe
Editor: Amy Pickworth
Art Direction: Derek Schusterbauer & Brendan Campbell
Graphic Design: Brendan Campbell, Mina Kim, Jack Tufts
Rights Manager: Sionan Guenther
Photographer: Erik Gould
Printer: GHP

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