Fine Art project.
Photography is my way of exploring the world. It allows me to interact with new situations, create them, or to document what I see so that it can be looked at later in time. The process of creating To Add to Her Troubles did just this. It allowed me to look at my mother’s mental illness, and ultimately the effect mental illness had on her fight against breast cancer.
My mother had worked in mental health and become ill at the age of 42, suddenly became a patient of the very field she had worked in. Through becoming a cancer patient years later, my mother again experienced several of the same losses in identity. With mental illness her mind had betrayed her; with the cancer, her body had now betrayed her one cell at a time.
To Add to Her Troubles is based around a central diptych of a nude and a drawing. The nude form shows the physical scars of her breast reconstruction; it is a representation of her own reconstruction both physically and mentally. The drawing offers an alternative perspective, hers. The drawing is one that my mother did of her body. The figure has marks in the places she believed she was being “electronically harassed.” In truth, what the drawing shows are the regions of her body where she was feeling the results of having metastasized breast cancer.
The installation is a combination of three perspectives to give a rounded view of the situation. My mother’s hand written notes introduce the viewer to her personal narratives of cancer and experience with mental illness. Various doctors’ notes offer a clinical perspective and perhaps a reality basis to the work. Through photographs of her personal affects I further develop who she was as a person, but also create a sense of absence. By combining these photographs with family photographs, a sense of normalcy is created. The family photos specifically represent a time prior to complications of illness of any form. Audio present when the work is exhibited is of a voicemail my mother left during one of her episodes, and the tone of her voice is fearful.
The audio set up on headphones and an iPod causes the viewer to interact with the piece through the act of placing the listening device over their ears and then pressing “play.” The iPod is connected to an older piece of wood furniture set to the side, which allows the viewer to perceive the chaotic arrangement of media on the wall while the voice ties the experience together. What is heard is the voice of a woman who loved her family but had a scary reality she faced at times. The core of this project is the life of a person, a life both of health and illness. Joy and fear.
As displayed at RedLine Gallery, Denver. The piece included and installation for audio, family photos, doctor's notes, and hand written notes.