"Art without Labels” or "AWOL," is a collective of artists with developmental disabilities whose goal is to break down the walls that separate artistic style and method, doing away with terms such as “outsider art” and “art brut” which are used to describe artwork created outside the accepted guidelines of the art establishment.
Vanessa Castro, an artist living with cerebral palsy, is currently exhibiting eight pieces in the “Abstract and Spiritual” exhibit at AWOL, located at 111 Kentucky Street in Petaluma, California. The six week exhibit ends in early November. Castro is a native San Franciscan. Raised in San Mateo, she moved to Berkeley in 1999 to attend the University of California at Berkeley and has remained in the East Bay ever since.
“I love the East Bay, so I remained living here after graduation and started my own art business, Ness Ness Va's Art,” said Castro.
Castro uses various tools to bring to life her vividly colored images, including acrylic paints, pastels, and colored markers. The subjects of her works are every-day objects, such as shoes, and. the works do not neatly fall into a single stylistic category, but integrate elements of abstraction and surrealism.
“I have always loved to draw using lots of colors. I took several art classes in high school and college. I took both painting and drawing classes, and I just loved it,” said Castro
Asked about what inspires her artwork, she said,
“Once I start a new drawing/painting ideas just come to me. I really enjoy showing people what I can do in spite my disability.”
Castro takes her commitment to educating children about disability very seriously, and has created and illustrated a children’s book called “Gloria, The Gecko Attendant,” about a young girl named Sabrina with cerebral palsy whose attendant just happens to be a big, green lizard, in order to reach out to the youth in order to help include awareness of disability in their world view.
“With my art I want to show people that they can do anything if they put their minds to it,” said Castro. “One of my main goals that I want to do is to educate children about different disabilities through my art and work. I am currently working on my second children's book about autism.”