King Gimp documentary on Dan Keplinger

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For anyone who warns you that spending too much time on the internet is a bad thing across the board, I got something to say: I may not have any memory of how I came across this link just 20 minutes ago, but finding out about the documentary “King Gimp” online made my day. And I hope following it will make yours as well. I’d like to present you with two short YouTube clips.

In the first, artist Dan Keplinger describes what role art played in his development as a young man with cerebral palsy. To make it even better, you get to see him painting and sculpting.

The second video is a trailer for the 1999 documentary about Dan called “King Gimp.” Oh, what a beautiful title! Reclaiming gimp! It’s not entirely captioned, which is too bad. But it’s an engaging trailer for what looks like a super engaging film. If you read my post last week about the power of trailers to set the tone, you’ll expect that I really like this trailer. It leads me to think Dan’s going to be speaking for himself in the documentary rather than the bulk of it being other people speaking about him, or worse, for him.

Please check out Dan’s website at You can read his artist statement, see a gallery of his stunning paintings, and see when his work is touring in your area. Follow his work and musings on his blog at

Just yesterday on the set, Dani (from the documentary I’m working on right now) said she doesn’t like to be labeled or put into a box. Don’t categorize her as an artist with a disability. Just call her Dani. My response to her and to other people who ask why on earth I want to show people with brain injuries making art in a documentary? I say this: “People with brain injuries make art because people make art.” Please don’t hear the label “brain injury” and think we’re only patients or constant recipients of help.

In the case of Dan Keplinger, art quickly blossomed into a powerful way for him to show people his intelligence, depth, and character. With a physical disability like his–or in the case of any kind of brain injury–people might want to take the easy road and just dismiss the person as not capable. Thank goodness art can be such a dynamic bridge into the artist’s inner world and a way to communicate about personhood.