Barbara Bridgeman and Caroline Young.

The original concept of the Mental Handicap Project exhibited in 1976 was as one of four parts of a series on ‘Relationships: Attitudes Towards Love’ titled Love and Tragedy. Lenkiewicz’s continuing interest was in the disadvantaged and ostracized sections of society. He started a large notebook on the history of mental and physical disability, including many detailed pen and ink drawings. These were often based on Velázquez’s paintings of the jesters and dwarfs in the seventeenth century court of Philip IV of Spain. A book on Velázquez is painted in the lower right corner of the picture.

The Plymouth Society for Mentally Handicapped Children was instrumental in finding families willing to participate in the Project, which was not easy given the defensiveness of the parents. The Life President of the Society, Dame Joan Vickers, was an enthusiastic supporter of Lenkiewicz’s ‘social enquiries by visual means’, as he termed his Projects. Amongst the books (bottom right) is a pamphlet called The Uses of Bad Art. Lenkiewicz’s exhibition notes confess to a ‘conspiracy’ and that "to attract attention from the majority group that naturally do not ‘care’ it is required that their ‘empathy’ be bought."

Note: Listed as No.29 Small growth person and girl with cerebral palsy in the 1980 restrospective list.


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