Photos courtesy of Greg Di Folco
One Ardsley-based artist is giving disabled individuals a voice through his forward-thinking portraiture company.
Flashy portraits of models, celebrities, and political figures are in no short supply, but one county artist is flipping the script on who merits this attention. Greg Di Folco works to give disabled people a sense of pride and dignity with sensitive mixed-media works that he produces himself. The Ardsley resident came up with the idea after his son was diagnosed with autism and his wife was diagnosed with cancer within two months of each other.
“I started to think about what I do best, of the skills I have, of the cards I was dealt, and I started to think about the idea of giving back to people who have disabilities,” says Di Folco, who is neurodivergent himself and has overcome mental illness. “I thought to myself, I love drawing faces, and I am good at it, so why not try to incorporate the challenges my family and I have dealt with into what I have been doing, instead of just making my art about me? What if I start doing portraits of people with disabilities?”
The result is Show Who You Are Portraits, a company Di Folco started with his father that has a twofold mission. “Number one is to make people who have disabilities or other challenges feel good about themselves by getting a portrait. A child who may have felt embarrassed because maybe he has a facial condition from birth can feel good about who they are,” says Di Folco. “Number two is to help foundations. I wanted to work with Special Olympics and Best Buddies, as well as other organizations, such as Extra Lucky Moms.”
And that is just what Di Folco has done, recently creating a portrait of the cast of the TLC show Born This Way and then auctioning it off to benefit The National Down Syndrome Society and working with the Children’s Craniofacial Association as well as the New York Chapter of the Special Olympics. Ahead, Di Folco and his father hope to found two for-profit companies as well, for which Di Folco has already created several drawings of drag queens, like Betty Fvck and Uhu Betch, in addition to individuals born with the skin condition vitiligo.
“I started to think about what I do best, of the skills I have, of the cards I was dealt, and I started to think about the idea of giving back to people who have disabilities.”
Yet, when Di Folco reflects on Show Who You Are Portraits, which is currently applying for 501(c)(3) nonprofit status, it is fairness that first comes to mind. “I was at a magazine store, and there were these models on the covers, making all this money,” says Di Folco. “But what about this person, who was born from genetics, just like the models, but his face looks different and might not be what people think of as ‘ideal beauty?’ I felt maybe we should level the playing field a little.”