Dustin Grella


C7 quadriplegic - incomplete
Much of my work engages with time, whether by speeding up, slowing down, or inspecting the passage of time. I become engrossed in processes which allow me to organize time in meticulous ways. These processes often grow out of a core compulsion - an action or idea repeated aggressively until some resolution is found. The rhythm and constraint of this repetition in turn mimics the measured passage of time, so that time becomes part of the medium of my work, as well as its subject.

One of my major ongoing investigations of time is the Notes to Self project, in which I have written and mailed myself a letter almost every day since April 13, 2002. The content of each letter is unique, oftentimes including a 1,000 word essay on that particular day, occasionally waxing poetic but usually simply writing about that day or that particular moment. Each letter is still sealed, neatly filed, and organized by date. The slight variations in the project - a change of font, the physical location of the cancellation stamp, and of course what is written inside - are nuances that help decipher time's complexities.

A majority of my work involves animation, which by its very nature compresses time to create the illusion of a new reality. I have developed a practice in which I set up a camera on a timer, recording each frame after one minute. Within this minute, I allow myself to draw and explore the direction of the work. Sometimes a narrative emerges, and at other times, the path is abstract. More recently, I have been projecting animations of people, animals, and shifts in light onto landscape drawings, breathing a time-based layer onto a once static image.

For a long time, I tried to keep my artwork and my disability separate, fearing the stigma of being labeled a “disabled” artist, rather than a “real” artist in my own right. However, in 2012, my own work pushed me to confront this tension. Because of the letter-writing project, I noticed that many of New York City’s post offices are not wheelchair accessible, including the one closest to my house. On April 15, 2012, I addressed this issue in “Tax Day Performance,” in which I got out of my wheelchair and scaled the front stairs to the John H. Farley Post Office, holding my taxes in my mouth. With this performance, I attempted to raise awareness of society’s shortcomings in meetings the needs of disabled citizens, as well as to address how my disability has challenged and informed my own artistic practice.

Animation Hotline: Inside Out  - 2016  RT 0:39
Animation Hotline is a series of over 200 crowd-sourced telephone answering machine message that have been being animated since 2011. In this particular piece Max Blagg left a poem he’d written.


Hummingbird's Wings  -  2015   RT 1:47
Experimental Short bridging the gap between live action and animation, documentary and poetry. Narrated by Thatcher Keats.


Notes to Self  -  2012   RT 1:00
In the Notes to Self project I’ve written mailed myself a letter almost every day since April 13, 2002. The exercise has generated thousands of letters which remain meticulously ordered and still sealed to this day. This is is an excerpt of the letters that were drawn on from 2007-2009.

Performance  -  2012   RT 1:30
For the tax deadline on April 17th at the James A. Farley Post Office (421 Eight Avenue @ 32nd Street) I climbed the stairs of the post office with my taxes in my mouth in an attempt to bring attention to the fact that a large percentage of New York City's post offices are still inaccessible.