The conventions of portraiture are based on venerable attitudes about acceptable and unacceptable bodies. Traditional portraiture determines who is worthy of being painted, sculpted, or photographed, which in turn relays what we as a society, deem valuable. Depictions of the body in figurative art allow us to see the interplay between the structure of a body and the contours of a life. Riva Lehrer began creating portraits of unconventional subjects in order to cultivate her own sense of beauty, importance, and visual pleasure.
For fifteen years, she has primarily created images of people with disabilities. For people with visible disabilities, the conflict of perceivable differences can be intensely problematic. We all experience this dissonance to some degree; if one inhabits a socially challenged body, it virtually guarantees a collision between appearance and truth. Disability holds a magnifying glass over universal struggle. Whether her subject is a person with or without impairments, all of her work is charged with the story of survival.