Nancy Rourke


I grew up in San Diego and survived through oralism all my childhood life. I was born Deaf without my parents knowing until I was six years old. I studied art at Rochester Institute of Technology in New York and graduated with a Master of Fine Arts in Computer Graphics and Painting. I started painting at age six until 1986 I became a graphic designer for twenty years in the corporate world. I went back to painting and got involved in De'VIA art movement in 2010, and realized I had discovered my passion. De'VIA stands for Deaf View Image Art. Art is based on Deaf experiences.

My paintings are about Deafhood that focuses on a journey, and discovering my own identity. I paint about Audism, Deaf history, politics, culturally linguistic, and the Second Wave of Oralism. The influence came from Dr. Paddy Ladd's book, Understanding Deaf Culture, In Search of Deafhood. I paint art using resistance, affirmative and libration as part of the three themes in De'VIA. I am influenced by the art movements: Fauvism, Neo-Expressionism, De Stijl and Cubism. These influences got me to using primary colours in paintings and because I wanted to make them quite vivid and eye catching. I create motifs, metaphors and hidden messages. I feel that my art is important for the audience to see who and what our human rights are about today.

Here is a sample of my work with some of my comments about the paintings.


The first is a painting based on what I have seen during my artist-in-residencies. This girl was born Deaf and had her first cochlear implant at age 21 months. Her parents worked hard to teach her how to talk and listen to music. They encouraged her not to use sign language. They tell friends and relatives that their daughter is 'hearing.' When she entered a mainstream program, she felt like a river. This was where she was struggling to find her own identity. One side of her, shows a land filled with mouths and ears. Another side of her, shows a land filled with sign language. She is the river. The river shows an image of her with the word AUDISM. This means that turning a Deaf baby into a 'hearing' baby through cochlear implant and then educating her orally represents a violation of human rights.

In the painting, on the left side, is the Deaf world with fingerspelling "D" — "E" — "A" — "F" while on the right side, is the hearing world with deaf person learning how to talk and listen, that shows ears and mouths. The river is the Deaf girl.

A river runs down the middle with signing hands on the left of it and mouths and ears on the other
Like a River
16 inch by 20 inch
oil on canvas


The next painting is about the Second Wave of Oralism that has been invading the Deaf Culture, or in other word, removing/taking away. The Deaf people are fighting against those "Ears" who are taking Deaf babies for experimental work on stem cells and cochlear implants. In the painting, there are some Deaf people pushing the Ears out, while the other Deaf people are trying to escape. The "ears" are the eugenicists, who are destroying their natural way of life.

On a black background blue ears are on the left and to the right of them sideways blue figures reach out towards
Cultural Genocide
8 inch by 10 inch oil on canvas



This painting was the first version of the CODA series that I did in 2011. This is a first painting about CODA that was never shown in public. The hands and eyes are the Deaf parents of CODAs. The CODAS are sitting under the table talking and laughing while their Deaf parents sit around the table under the bright light, socializing all evening.

Colorful hands above four people sitting under a table
Hands, Eyes and CODAs
11 inch by 14 inch
oil on canvas


The subject of the final painting is the way in which the Deaf people around the World are connected to each other. The hands of different colours from different countries in the world, their signing "Unity" connects among each other. Regardless, of their whereabouts, their cultures and language, the Deaf people connect instantly because they are Deaf. To idenify each country's sign language, each country has its own abbreviation. American Sign Language: ASL, French Sign Language: LSF, Italian Sign Language: LIS, etc.

In the bacround, a globe with the abbreviations for the world's sign languages. In the foreground yellow, black, red and whit hands signing
Global Deaf Connect
30 inch by 40 inch
oil on canvas

Many more examples of my work can be seen on my website at