I am getting ready for a show (and talk) at USC Keck School of Medicine Hoyt Gallery. The title is Chain Reaction. In addition to a statement, Ted Meyer has asked me to write descriptions for the work that can accompany the pieces. I know this task can either enhance or end someone's experience with the work so my intention is to provide additional information that won't discard other perceptions. Fingers crossed. The description I wrote for Hexaptyph has much to do with all the work in the collection so I chose to share it here on my blog.
TITLE: Hexaptyph “When everything you thought you knew no longer functions the way you thought it did"
MEDIA: Oil on canvas, acrylic on Model Magic, stainless steel, wood, extruded acrylic rod.
A hexaptych (or polyptych) is a multi-panel, altarpiece, common during the Early Renaissance. These images were used to tell stories. My contemporary hexaptych (made of six panels) depicts the burning of chairs juxtaposed with models of brains.
Chairs embody characteristics of people, specifically their bodies (backs, legs, arms, seats). So to burn a chair is to kill a body, or in this case, the idea of a body.
Our brain-body relationships depend upon the firing of neurons that are charged secondary to sensory stimuli. We form our stories from this stimuli. You are doing this right now. And you are using your physical awareness to do so.
Despite outward appearances on the body, the basil ganglia, located within the midbrain, is the rooted location of the injury within my son's brain. This midbrain gateway from brain to body for motor control is the basis for his form of Cerebral Palsy. Here, neuronal barriers make it difficult to sense ones own body in space. Balance and equilibrium are impacted because muscle neurons fire uncontrollably. And knowledge, which is normally gained through movement or the memory of movement in relation to the world, is less obtainable.
A group of nuclei in the midbrain make up the basil ganglia. With deprivation of life-dependent oxygen, there happens a chemical change as the brain transcends in an attempt to save itself. This causes calcium deposits to form. An ethereal and symmetrical pooling of these deposits appear on an MRI as a white moth-like shape. It signifies death of brain tissue. Scars left behind are peppered throughout the circulatory system of the brain. Their knotty fabric blocks neuropathways hindering the flow of information. Extensive damage impairs the four quadrants of the body: right and left arm, right and left leg, and the body’s center: its trunk, neck, vocal cords, tongue and swallow. Additionally, all areas of sensory input can be involved including sight, hearing and the nerve endings for receiving touch and feeling pain. Physiological change is the result of a global chain reaction.
Clearly, I am not illustrating this medical phenomenon in my hexaptypch. I am, however, meditating on the brain-body connection as I now understand it, through making tight renderings of which my brain and body are capable. I’ve strung together a narrative having to do with my relationship with my son using sensory stimuli and muscle memory that blend and separate the two of us (My brain-his body. His body-my body and so forth.) It is a conflated combination that continues to color my view of the world and give me agency.