“On a scale of 0-10, what is your pain level today?”
To accurately answer this question, you must first have a concept of what is 0 and what is 10 as Eula Biss writes in her article, “The Pain Scale.” For me, a simple number is not enough to fully understand the relationship I have with pain. I don’t have a concept of what my 0 and my 10 are, so I can’t ultimately define the pain I am experiencing today with numbers. When asked this question, I answer with the common and comfortable answer of 5.
But if you were to ask me how to visually define my chronic pain, I could show you what it feels like in detail. It’s an uncomfortable tightness wrapped around my muscles yet a contradiction of loose wiring causing my body to slip from time to time. It’s a constant movement of those interconnecting wires that causes my body to fold into itself. It’s the exhaustion of repeating my story to strangers, being sure to choose my words carefully so it’s not coded wrong for insurance. Balancing pain management is a life all of its own.
I created this series to express my ongoing journey with chronic pain and its limiting characteristics that go unseen. This pain that seemingly goes unnoticed to the naked eye is represented in patterns and imagery drawn onto the model to lift the curtain as to what I know goes on inside my body. I use media such as digital art to explore the relationship between beauty and pain, self-healing, and acceptance. Throughout my process of creating this body of work, I struggle to find a frequent symbol or visual representation that could accurately convey and embody what it is I am experiencing yet not seeing. This concept and what I use to visualize my pain is still ever changing as does the pain I experience and the level it is at.
I provoke the viewer to question the stigma behind disability and what it is perceived to be. My art is meant to encourage the viewer to explore empathy, not pity or hopelessness. To me, the most important concept behind my work is changing the social constructs of disability and chronic pain. These constructs often steer us away from understanding disability rather than discussing it. I want my art to be a part of leading that discussion.