Please see my bio page for a version of my current interests and preoccupations with art.
I loved to draw when I was a young person, and also to make things out of cardboard or LEGO. At age eleven, I was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes, the insulin-injection-needing kind. This was a fair bit of an adjustment to my life – and it shaped who I became. There was a lot of fear/anger to overcome, such as the fear of injections, finger stabbing, and the regulation of my body by others. The medical establishment at that time (in the 80’s) also used fear as a tool to gain compliance with their program – they would often say I would lose my eyesight or legs as a result of my defiance. Which, to be fair, was true, but as a teenager I couldn’t believe I would make it past the age of thirty.
At a later point in my life, shortly after high school in the suburbs, I decided to begin my life as an artist, and with those threats ringing in my ears, decided I would have a better chance of making artwork as a blind, legless sculptor than a painter. And so I began down the sculptor’s path, and carved stone, cast bronze and forged steel through the sculpture program at NSCAD. Some years after graduation I was working as a blacksmith, when I heard this proverb during an interview with A. A. Bronson from General Idea (probably the only metal shop in Canada welded to CBC radio):
“Affliction, like the iron-smith, shapes as it smites.”
I have often wondered how true this has been in my life and especially my artwork. While I did make one or two artworks in my first year of art school that directly referenced my affliction, (just like every writer needs to first write their own story) it has not been evident in any work since. Or perhaps it has? Though my work is not about diabetes, or medicine, I recall a medical psychiatrist once telling me that his patients with lifelong chronic illness were often the most empathetic people. Does this translate into the way I make my artworks? Probably, though it is very hard to tease out the causality of one’s own life and art – especially when they are intertwined.