Living Room (Authorized for Disclosure), mixed media installation, Parabola: Assembly, Des Lee Gallery, Saint Louis, Missouri.
December 7, 2018
Living Room (Authorization for Disclosure) is an installation that explores the psychological impact of invisible illness. For those with an invisible chronic illness, the bodily and psychological experience is highly incongruous. The body is ravaged by the illness on the inside, but its outward appearance remains relatively unchanged. The individual’s physical appearance is therefore at odds with the mind’s psychological experience, creating a crisis in identity and a mind-body disconnect. Because the illness is invisible, those who are experiencing the effects of chronic illness are rarely perceived as ill by those around them. This paradox often results in feelings of isolation and alienation. Constructed to replicate the ubiquitous living room of a domestic interior, the comfort and relaxation normally provided by this familiar, familial space is ruptured by the presence of medical ephemera. The installation features my own X-ray imaging, pamphlets of medical information from my doctor’s office, handwritten notes taken during my appointments, empty prescription bottles, latex gloves, urine sample receptacles, and other medical detritus. By collapsing the spaces of medical testing and treatment with the familiar spaces of domesticity and relaxation within the public site of an art gallery, the installation becomes an uncanny hybrid space that allows viewers to gain a better comprehension of what it is like to literally live with a chronic illness, rendering what is normally invisible visible.
Hard Pills to Swallow (Fortune Cookie), mixed media sculpture, 2019.
The distinctive orange prescription pill bottle used in Hard Pills to Swallow is central to a semiotics of illness since most are familiar with its recognizable appearance. Each bottle is unlabeled, leaving out crucial information such as patient name, prescription type, and consumption instructions. The ordinary, unremarkable bottle serves as a reminder of the frequently standardizing effects of the medical world. Diagnoses, treatments, medical instruments, prescriptions, waiting rooms, procedures…all are stratified, procedural, codified, repetitive, and highly regulated. However, within each bottle is a slip of paper with the story of a real person affected by illness. The individualism expressed by each story is at radical odds with the anonymity of the pill bottle and reminds the viewer of the unique experience of illness in a system that at times makes us forget this nuance.