My hands are not like most people’s. They’re double jointed and, because of an autoimmune disorder, my fingers swell like balloons and then contract, resulting in squishiness and wrinkles. For decades, I’ve been ashamed of my hands.
Four years ago, my brother became very ill, and I began to pay attention to the contradictions of the body: it is a miracle machine, capable of healing itself. But it is also a destroyer, determined to fail or attack itself. My hands, whose condition I had preferred to hide, instead became the focus of my art making. I poured my grief into molds, creating hundreds of casts of my hands. Some broke at their weak points, and I embedded their fragments in heavy slabs and blocks. Then I tried to dig them out. My process was a metaphor: I wanted to shield and protect my brother, and also to carve away his cancer. It was an impossible struggle, but it was also an act of creation.
Now I give fragments to friends, who surprise me—and themselves—with the stories the pieces elicit. One friend told me, ‘I look at the fragment of your wrist, and I remember the skinny frailty of my father’s leg.'
NOTE: On Monday, October 29, from noon to 1pm, join us at the library for a panel discussion titled "Good Grief: artists and writers share stories of loss, creativity and joy."