March 3, 2015
Dear Friends, Family & Colleagues,
My first series of cancer art works, Mortal Selfies, are almost finished. It has been a very exciting push to get them done. The side effects from the chemo – nausea and tiredness – have been present but not overwhelming. I have felt quite energized by the task of shaping visual pieces that speak to this early experience of cancer. As I move through the treatment stages, I hope to continue finding forms that speak to my journey I’ve written an artist statement about the work which I’ve pasted into this email. I will be getting the work up online sometime soon…
Meanwhile, I’d like to invite those of you who are nearby to come and see the new work in a faculty group show, RUBRIC, opening next week at Humber College. I’ve attached the invitation below; however there is an additional opportunity to see the work.
Thursday March 12 – 6:30-8:30pm
Guelph Humber Art Gallery – GH 123
Tuesday March 10 – Wednesday April 1
Monday to Friday 12-5pm
I’ll be at the reception. The gallery will also open on Saturday March 14 from 12-4pm. I will be there and would love to see some of you then.
The Guelph Humber Art Gallery is at Humber’s North campus, off Highway 27 just south of Finch. If you are driving, take Highway 27 to Humber College Blvd. It is a bit north of Rexdale Blvd. I’m attaching a map of the campus where I’ve marked the building with the gallery in red. If you are coming by public transit, go to Kipling Subway station and take the 191Highway 27 Express.
Diana Meredith: Artist’s Statement
We learned that, “The personal is political,” from the feminists of the 1970s and 1980s. I count myself among them. My artwork is informed and shaped by using personal experiences, especially of the body, as sources for my artwork. Mortal Selfies is a first investigation of my recent experience of multiple myeloma, bone marrow cancer.
Each image begins with a photo I took of myself – the contemporary ‘selfie’, which is used, in turn, as the photo reference for an ink drawing. The image is then brought into the computer and visually fractured. The fractured image reflects the experience of cancer diagnosis, treatment and identity in a variety of ways. Myeloma is a disease of the blood cells. These are tiny pieces of self that have fractured from the integrated body and have turned on it. Contemporary cancer treatment involves a massive use of pharmaceuticals – those fractured pieces of biochemical science targeted at particular cells. Finally, identity as a cancer patient embraces a multiplicity of fractured identities. Donning the iconic hospital gown and moving through the rituals of medical testing and oncology clinics, as well as ingesting the futuristic drugs of chemotherapy, advance one through a series of constructed identities. At the same time, the high tech of cancer science is counterpoised against the personal sensations of the diseased body and the flood of community support. These different kinds of identities fractured together to construct new facets of identity.
Before I went to graduate school at age 57, I would not have included text in a work of art. My initial art training took place within the framework of Modernism which espoused form over content. The visuals needed to speak for themselves and language was a separate entity that had no place in visual art. The ideas behind Contemporary Art changed my thinking on the use of text. I realized that text was both a visual element as well as a site of meaning.
The four pieces that make up Mortal Selfies explore different aspects of the personal and public text that surrounds us in contemporary European-American society. Loss looks at the diary – a site of personal reflection and private exploration. Numbers reflects the experience of the modern cancer patient in treatment. Frequently, at times daily, blood tests tell the cancer narrative far more sharply than that out-moded measure, “How do you feel?” Creatinine levels, kappa light chain proteins and hemoglobin are some of the numbers that define my treatment plan. At the same time the numbers of prognosis inevitably raise the spectre of mortality on a profound level. The third piece in the series, Chemo, investigates the pharmaceutical industry. While the miracle of chemotherapy cannot be denied, the high price of cancer drugs does beg the question, “Who is making all that money?” The series ends with Cherish, a homage to the outpouring of love, support and wisdom that has come my way since my diagnosis. I use hand written text to reflect the personal nature of these emails. Finally, each piece is defaced with that most illicit of public texts – graffiti.
Through text in various forms, fractured ink paintings and the dance between the manipulations of digital processes and the materiality of analog, I have found a visual form to encompass the early stages of cancer diagnosis, treatment and identity in contemporary, urban Canadian society.