Museum of Contemporary Art San Diego

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For Dear Life: Art, Medicine, and Disability
Acrylic painting showing image of a woman looking sideways wearing a bathing cap

On view at MCASD

September 19, 2024 to February 2, 2025

For Dear Life: Art, Medicine, and Disability is the first exhibition to survey themes of illness and impairment in American art from the 1960s up to the COVID-19 era. For Dear Life narrates the history of recent art through the lens of disability—a term used inclusively—recognizing the vulnerable body to be a crucial throughline for art in the United States amid the upheavals and transformations of past decades.

In recent years, the art world has seen an explosion of activity confronting issues of illness and disability. Set in motion by disability justice movements of the twenty-first century, this development accelerated with the onset of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. Contemporary artists with disabilities and chronic illnesses have produced influential bodies of art, often working collaboratively with peers and institutions to highlight relations of mutual dependence and negotiate practices of care. Such artists have dramatically expanded discourse about access, while reframing disability as a refusal to conform to the pace, architecture, and economic conditions of contemporary life. For Dear Life explores how this turn was preceded by the work of artists and activists beginning in the 1960s and 1970s. Informed by intersecting movements that included civil rights, antiwar, women’s and gay liberation, and disability rights, artists of that era approached the body—in all its variance—as a field of inquiry. This exhibition explores artistic responses to disease, disability, and forms of unruly embodiment more broadly, tracing genealogies of art that have shaped contemporary currents.

Inhabiting seven galleries at MCASD, For Dear Life is accompanied by a rotating program of film and video. A lavishly illustrated publication published by Marquand Books and distributed by the University of Texas Press will be available for purchase.

Participating Artists

Laura Aguilar, Carlos Almarez, Ida Applebroog, Ron Athey, Rina Banerjee, Nayland Blake, Barbara Bloom, Gregg Bordowitz, John Boskovich, Morris Broderson, Beverly Buchanan, Lisa Bufano, Jerome Caja, Patty Chang, King Cobra, Tee Corinne, Moyra Davey, Zeinabu irene Davis, Jay DeFeo, Emory Douglas, Angela Ellsworth and TT Takemoto, Simone Fattal, Bob Flanagan and Sheree Rose, LaToya Ruby Frazier, Pippa Garner, Nan Goldin, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, Milford Graves, Joseph Grigely, Anna Halprin, Barbara Hammer, Ester Hernandez, David Hockney, Camille Holvoet, Tishan Hsu, Kim Jones, Christine Sun Kim, Stephen Lapthisophon, Liz Larner, Carolyn Lazard, Lynn Hershman Leeson, Riva Lehrer, Simone Leigh, Zoe Leonard, Fred Lonidier, James Luna, Guadalupe Maravilla, Park McArthur, Juanita McNeely, Amalia Mesa-Bains, Mundo Meza, Frank Moore, Frank C. Moore, Ray Navarro, Senga Nengudi, Alison O’Daniel, Pauline Oliveros, Carmen Papalia, Howardena Pindell, Pope.L, Yvonne Rainer, Niki de Saint Phalle, Judith Scott, Kathryn Sherwood, Hollis Sigler, Jaune Quick-to-See Smith, Kiki Smith, P. Staff, Liza Sylvestre, Sunaura Taylor, Joey Terrill, Rigoberto Torres, Mary Ann Unger, Kaari Upson, Catherine Wagner, Charles White, Hannah Wilke, David Wojnarowicz, Martin Wong, Richard Yarde, Sandie (Chun-Shan) Yi, Liz Young, and Constantine Zavitsanos


MCASD is among more than 60 exhibitions and programs presented as part of PST ART. Returning in September 2024 with its latest edition, PST ART: Art & Science Collide, this landmark regional event explores the intersections of art and science, both past and present. PST ART is presented by Getty. For more information about PST ART: Art & Science Collide, please visit


For Dear Life: Art, Medicine, and Disability is organized by MCASD Senior Curator Jill Dawsey, PhD, and former Associate Curator Isabel Casso.

This exhibition is part of PST Art: Art & Science Collide, an initiative of the Getty Foundation. Major funding for this exhibition is provided by the Getty Foundation and The Henry Luce Foundation. Individual support for the exhibition is provided by Brook Hartzell and Tad Freese.

Financial support is also provided by the City of San Diego through the Commission for Arts and Culture.

Top: X-Ray Woman in Bathing Cap, 1966