2016 Art Show

In July 2016 I had my first one person art exhibit at the San Francisco Art Institute. The exhibit also included an Artist Talk that can be found here. This page shows the art from the exhibit.

Descriptions of the art in the exhibit are in alphabetical order:

  1. Disabled Women of Color
  1. For Her
  1. Hidden Graves
  1. Lost Lives
  1. Phoenix
  1. Sacred Hoop
  1. Wheelchair Bound
  1. Witness (quilt)
  1. Witness (sculpture)

Corbett Joan OToole


88 x 60 inches (224 x 152 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

Quilting: Melissa Quilter

Loaned by Eugene Chelberg & David Meissner

From Amy Tan to Barbara Jordan, women of color with disabilities are nearly invisible in American culture and history. Each of the women pictured on the quilt are well-known yet their disabilities are often ignored or obscured. This large quilt brings them to the forefront and honors their lives and work as pioneers straddling multiple communities.

Description: A large quilt (86 x 60″) constructed from small pieces of brightly colored fabrics in the “crazy quilt” style. There are 8 images of disabled women taken from book covers (Amy Tan, Gloria Anzaldua, Audre Lorde), publicity shots (Tammy Duckworth, Kathy Martinez, Alana Wallace, Wilma Mankiller) and a postage stamp (Barbara Jordan).

  1. FOR HER

Corbett Joan OToole

FOR HER (2012)

100x 64 inches (254 x 163 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

Quilting: Melissa Quilter

Loaned by Katherine Ott

This is the first quilt I ever made. In fact this is the first sewing project that I ever did. I gathered stories from my friend and made her this quilt of three scenes from different times of her life.

Description: This large quilt (100 x 64″) has three wide scenes placed parallel. Each panel goes across the whole width of the quilt. The bottom scene shows the sunrise over the Sandia Mountains of New Mexico. An orange Pinto car is parked on the desert floor. A woman lies on top of the car hood leaning back onto the windshield. She is looking up at a star-filled night. The middle panel shows a park with trees and a picnic table, swings and a baseball diamond. The park comes down to the lake’s edge where there are beach towels. The top panel shows the view across the Potomac River towards Theodore Roosevelt Island and Arlington, VA.


Corbett Joan OToole

Hidden Graves (2016)

87 x 44 inches (221 x 112 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

$1, 500

Quilting: Sue Fox

Hidden Graves documents the invisibility of the inmates of the Agnews Insane Asylum. From it’s opening in 1888 until it was closed in the 1960s Agnews buried inmates in unmarked graves. Sometimes bricks with numbers were placed in the grass as grave markers. But since many of the numbers were reused and many bricks were moved, it is impossible to know where inmates are buried.

The photographs are of the remaining 1/4 acre of the original hundreds of acres of Agnews land. The remaining grave markers on this land were intentionally removed by the city of Santa Clara. This quilt is my attempt to acknowledge their presence in this grassy ground.

Description: This large quilt (87 x 44”) shows three photographs printed onto fabric. The photos show a grassy area with a surrounding 4 foot black metal fence. Outside the fence new townhouses can be glimpsed.


Corbett Joan OToole


87 x 44 inches (221 x 112 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

$1, 500

Quilting: Sue Fox

At the time of the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, Agnews Insane Asylum housed over 1,000 inmates of which 107 were killed in locked wards when the buildings collapsed. For most, once they entered they never were allowed to leave which makes the reasons for their incarcerations all the more infuriating. Many of the men were in their 20s and their “diagnosis of insanity” was “masturbation.” Most of the women were in the late 30s and 4os. The most common diagnosis for them was failure to comply with their assigned domestic duties.

Located 54 miles south of San Francisco, this mass destruction is almost never mentioned in historical accounts of the earthquake. The multi-storied,unreinforced masonry buildings collapsed trapping the inmates inside the lockedwards. Some news accounts attribute the collapse to shoddy construction.

None of the inmates are buried in marked graves.

Description: A large grainy newspaper photograph of the collapsed buildings at Agnews covers the top third of this large quilt (87 x 44”). Mottled grey fabric fills the next third. On it are quilted bricks falling down. The lower third of the quilt contains the names of 97 inmates who died in Agnews in the 1906 earthquake written on various brownish brick fabrics.


Corbett Joan OToole

PHOENIX (2014)

64 x 48 inches (163 x 122 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

Loaned by Alison Kafer

In making Phoenix I experimented with telling the story of a life interrupted by trauma and then blossoming using colors and a little bit of shape. The lower half of the quilt is in blues and greens with a bit of brown. This represents her life pre-disability when she was outdoors camping, hiking and swimming. These are her roots and the quilting shows roots over this section.

The middle has two rows of dark fabric at a slight downward angle. This represents the trauma that created her disability.

The upper half echoes the sunrise in my first quilt For Her. Here the left diagonals are greens and browns while the right diagonals are blues and purples. These diagonals surround the center inverted triangle of color.


Corbett Joan OToole


82×78 inches (208 x 198 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

Loaned by Naomi Ortiz

I made the Sacred Hoop quilt for my writing buddy, Naomi Ortiz. The colors within the Hoop are her choices. The Sacred Hoop represents the circle of life within many communities. Although there is great variation on which colors are associated with directions and seasons, the colors here were selected by Naomi.

Description: This large quilt (82 x 78″) shows a sacred hoop on a background of dark brown fabric with small black spirals. The sacred hoop has an inner and outer circle. The inner circle has 4 pie-shaped pieces of different colors representing the four directions. Photorealistic fabrics showing grasses in different seasons and form the outer circle of the Hoop. White is for north (winter), sky blue is for east (spring), black is for south (summer) and yellow is for west (autumn). Each color is separated by a fabric feather made from all 4 colored fabrics. A thick black band surrounds the inner circle.


Corbett Joan OToole

Wheelchair Bound (2015)

8 x 10 inches each

3 photographs

$ 125 each

Photographer: Michelle Mantione

Model: Corbett Joan OToole

Wheelchair Bound Photo 1 view from back

Wheelchair Bound Photo 1

Wheelchair Bound Photo 2 view from left

Wheelchair Bound Photo 2

Wheelchair Bound Photo 3 view from front

Wheelchair Bound Photo 2

I am interested in exploring the visual opportunities for the commonly used phrase “wheelchair bound.” What if a person is actually tied to a wheelchair? What if the style of tying is most commonly used for sex play? What if other disability equipment such as orthopedic shoes and leg braces are included in the photos?

The project emerged out of a conversation with a disabled person who said they tie they leg to the bedpost during sex so their spasticity does not cause their knee to pummel into their partner’s crotch during sex.

Description: three 8×10″ photographs. Photo 1 shows the back view of a person sitting in a wheelchair. Bright pink ropes tie the person to the wheelchair. Wheel-shaped shadows are under the chair. Photo 2 shows a side view of a left wheelchair wheel and front frame. The person has black orthopedic shoes and one lower leg steel brace. Their left hand and legs are tied to the wheelchair with pink rope. Photo 3 shows a front view of the wheelchair. Between the tied legs is a black bag with white lettering “Cripple.” A hand is shown tying the left hand to the wheel with rope.

  1. WITNESS  (quilt)

Corbett Joan OToole

WITNESS (2016) quilt

88 x 64 inches (224 x 163 cm)

fabric, cotton batting, thread

$ 2,500

Design assistance: Jo Magaraci & Sue Fox   Quilting: Sue Fox

Witness quilt

Everyday in the United States a family member kills a disabled person. Rarely are they discovered and almost never are they prosecuted. Instead they plead various excuses. The media frames these murders as “mercy killing” and creates stories of great sympathy for the murderers. Almost no media attention is given to the life and death of the disabled person. Witness remembers 14 disabled children who were murdered in 2015.

Description: This large quilt (88 x 64″) shows the faces of 14 children of various skin tones. The year of their birth and death (all died in 2015) is written below their pictures. The quilt alternates rows of text and pictures. Row 1: In large lettering states: America’s Class of 2015, And below in smaller lettering: Disabled children murdered by their parents in 2015. Row 2 has 4 photos. Row 3 has one photo and the text: There is no “mercy” in killing. No explanation that justifies taking a child’s life. It is simply murder. To say otherwise dishonors all the disabled chidlren murdered by the people they love. Row 4 has 4 photos. Row 5 has one photo and the text: We must be concerned not merely about who murdered them but about the system, the way of life, the philosophy which produced the murderers. Martin Luther King, Jr., Eulogy for the Murdered Chidlren (1963). Row 6 has 4 photos.

  1. WITNESS (sculpture)

Corbett Joan OToole

Witness (sculpture) (2016)

40 x 40 x 4 inches (GET CM)

fabric, thread, wood, paint


Construction: Daniel Flaherty

Front of the Witness sculpture

Back of the Witness sculpture

Central square of the back

The Witness sculpture is the original idea for the two Witness pieces. Designed to ask people to question their assumptions about “mercy killing” the piece is designed to evoke memories of brightly colored spinning children’s toys.

Description: Nine large 12 inch squares are contained in a wooden frame that is painted with primary colors. Each two-sided square spins independently on a vertical axis. On the front side, eight large up-close photos of chidren of various skin tones surround a center square that reads “America’s Class of 2015. When the eight perimeter squares are turned around, the back side reads: “Mercy / Killing / Mean/ Disabled / Children / Killed / By Those / They Love.” The back center square reads: “In 2015 in the United States 28 disabled children and 27 disabled adults were killed by their families.”