In our series MC Muse, savvy women from around the world share their style, their ambitions, and the most coveted pieces to shop right now.
Lindsay Adams has lived her 30 years with cerebral palsy, a motor disability that affects her speech, movement, and balance. “People with disabilities are often left out of the conversation,” Adams explains. “I think there’s an unfortunate stigma and monolith associated with living with [a disability].” Art has been a release. With a natural flair for it, Adams picked up drawing around the age of four, and by 14, the young artist began painting with oils. “It was my own form of communication—my peace and my protest,” she says.
After graduating from The University of Richmond, where Adams minored in studio art and triple-majored in international studies, world politics, and Spanish, she felt societal pressure to take a traditional career path. In D.C., Adams began working as a marketing strategist. But her lifelong hobbies of drawing and painting became a grounding force as she experienced both life and work changes. Pivoting her art from part-time craft to platform for marginalized communities has become a goal for Adams, even more so as the political and social challenges of 2020 unfolded.
“I was scared when I first started talking about the space that I occupy and I didn’t know if it was my place to speak out or how it was going to be received,” she explains. But over time, the D.C.-based artist and advocate has found herself leading discussions around disability and inclusivity. “I have this unique perspective living at the intersection of being a Black woman and being disabled,” she says.
Adam's portfolio of work is layered with movement, vibrant colors, and textured brush strokes. Her subjects range from portraits to florals to the female form and largely center on accepting ones individual space and identity. “There are a lot of imperfect things that exist in my humanhood. I would be remiss not to share that part of me,” she says. “I’ve come to realize that I'm a voice, a representation, a decision maker, and a story teller.”
She is currently being featured alongside 12 other artists in Varsity Blues at New York’s Allouche Gallery. The exhibition touches on the racial, social, and socio-economic inequities that exist within America’s higher education system—made more evident by the 2019 college admissions scandal. We sat down with the artist to hear about her inspirations, using fashion as an extension of her art, and how she juggles her full-time marketing career alongside her art and advocacy work.
Marie Claire: Just curious, when do you find the time to paint?
Lindsay Adams: Well, let me tell you. I have to be very strategic about timing. I paint early in the mornings and in the evenings. Weekends are also committed to painting and researching. For my Varsity Blues exhibition, I read a lot of books and listened to some Cornell lectures to help inform my work on confronting identity and the racial dynamics of the 20th and 21st centuries.
My disability is something I could keep to myself, but it's been really important to me to be vocal about it. When I was seven or eight, I didn't see people with disabilities. When I paint, I'm occupying the space as my whole self, not just the parts of me that are convenient or pretty. You know?
MC: Who are some of the women that inspire you?
LA: Amanda Gorman and the way she uses her voice. Not living, but Maya Angelou totally inspired my art with her stories. Also, my mom.
MC: How would you describe your style?
LA: I often look at clothing and fashion as another form of paint, with the body being the canvas. I think fashion gives us a space to communicate who we are and our creativity in a very upfront sense.
I love fashion. I like to build an outfit similar to how I build up layers and textures of paint. I like pops of color and always go for statement pieces. I’ll never skip out on an opportunity to get dressed. I find some of my favorite designers on Instagram: Source Unknown, Local European, and Dress Article are a few. Oh, and Tibi! I also love thrifting and second-hand [stores].
MC: What's one piece of empowering advice you have for women?
LA: I think we are often forced to confront sides of ourselves that are uncomfortable, especially when we don't even know where we fit in. I've been really coming into this concept of grace and space. I think there's a never ending task of embracing oneself, and as a result it encourages others to do the same. It’s not always going to be convenient to speak up, but it will be okay.