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[whitespace] Whipper Snapper Nerd Bold Stroke: Andrew Li's black-marker drawings are among the works on view at the Center for the Arts.

Works of art fly free in a
zine and art exhibit

By Christa Palmer

Whipper Snapper Nerd is a square-shaped zine with a stapled binding that sits somewhere between a flier and a magazine on the literary food chain. Like most zines, it circulates rare and anomalous subject matter overlooked by most mainstream publications. As Bust covers modern feminism and Giant Robot highlights Asian-American culture, Whipper Snapper Nerd features the drawings, interviews, photographs and biographies of developmentally disabled adults. It was conceived in 1994 by artist Harrell Fletcher and independent curator Elizabeth Meyer, two teachers who worked at Creativity Explored, a non-profit art center for developmentally disabled adults in the Mission District.

Currently on view at the Center for the Arts through Aug. 23 is an interesting and inspiring exhibit of work culled from the pages of Whipper Snapper Nerd. The exhibit includes images and interviews, selected enlarged drawings and text, and a video monitor showing the students talking about their lives and work. The visceral manner in which the material is presented resonates with the same raw and spontaneous spirit that permeates the zine. The credit for this goes to Center for the Arts curator René de Guzman, who presents the work for what it is: art. Blessedly absent are academic analyses of the artists or marketing terms like "outsider" and "self-taught." And unlike most of this decade's art marketing strategies, no one is profiting off the art other than the artists themselves. If a piece sells for over $50, part of the fee goes into a Creativity Explored fund for things like framing or parties, and the remainder goes to the artist.

The first and most noticeable piece in the exhibit is Michael Loggins' poetry-like list of fears scrawled onto the museum's high white walls along the stairwell leading to the second floor. Loggins' 138 fears are so simple and true to the heart it's enough to make even the most fearless individual shudder. There's also poetry by recognized visual-poet John McKenzie, who writes his phrases on paper with crayon, paying close attention to coloring in the vowels. His work includes some imaginative and poignant expressions, like "cockroach macho attitude" and "swastika lipstick."

In all these courageous and uninhibited works, the disability of the creator is not what you see. What you do see is spontaneity and boldness. The pieces are full of life and ready to be recognized for what they are: works of art.

"Whipper Snapper Nerd: Work from Creativity Explored" runs through Aug. 23 at Center for the Arts, 701 Mission St.; 415/978-2787. For information on Creativity Explored, call 415/863-2108 or 415/863-2946. Check out the Web site. To order copies of the zine, send $5 to Creativity Explored, 3245 16th St., SF, 94103.

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From the August 10-23, 1998 issue of the Metropolitan.

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