Risk Picture: Achy Obejas

Lent by the artist and Zolla Lieberman Gallery

Riva Lehrer’s portraits focus on the disability community of which she is a part. Long concerned with what she calls “the ethics of the studio relationship,” her portrayals of others are collaborative. Lehrer made this drawing of her friend, the writer Achy Obejas, as she was beginning to experience deafness.

Signaling Obejas’s emergent loss, fragments of text emanate from an ear-shaped aperture. The stream of messages, written in English and Spanish, relate to her vividly documented erotic life. The torn pieces of paper are seen floating into a lower register, where, from the sea, we spot a shore. The accompanying vitrine contains rolled scrolls and a figure in a glass boat, symbolizing Obejas’s identity as a Cuban exile.