Sunday, April 27, 2008

Pain as Art

I stumbled upon an article in the Health section of today's New York Times that described a unique, online art exhibit.

Mark Collen, 47, is a former insurance salesman who suffers from chronic back pain. San Francisco college student James Gregory, 21, suffers from chronic pain as the result of a car accident. The two created the Pain Exhibit, an online gallery of art from pain sufferers.

The categories pain art falls into include Torture, Imprisonment, Loss of Faith, Fear, Hope, Love, Transformation, and Acceptance. That about covers the spectrum. Each image is comes along with an artist statement that describes his or her pain condition and the personal meaning of the image.

As you might expect, many of the images are hard to look at and evoke in the viewer a shiver of mortality and fear. It is too horrible and too intimate to get this close to another's pain, even if you're suffering with your own.

Eye of the Storm portrays the both the agony and the terrible loneliness of a migraine sufferer. Do You See What I Feel? shows that for many, pain doesn't show on the outside. So sufferers may appear normal, and be treated as normal, while experiencing a steady pounding of pain internally. Trapped in Hell is very hard to look at. It captures the desperation of a sufferer who can't bear the pain one more second, yet can never escape from his own body.

There are people who are forced to endure terrible conditions -- torture, from within and from the outside, inflicted by biology, by government, by neighbor. Those of us who have found some pathways out of this hell, and those of us who are lucky enough to have never visited there yet must bear witness.

That's the least we can do.


Donimo said...

I found the Pain Exhibit a little while ago. There are definitely some works there that speak to me. I think that all humans suffer and can relate to the images in some way or another. I think that it resonates on a personal level and doesn't stay at the safe distance of just bearing witness, though hopefully, in viewing another's expression of pain there is that point of witness as well. I think a lot of people who have never had a catastrophic injury or intractable physical pain can relate to an image of physical suffering. Frida Kahlo's work speaks to people even though they never went through what she did.

I plan to submit a piece to this exhibit. I hope that more people link to it (and talk about it), it's an interesting collection.

Diane J Standiford said...

Excellent post and thank you.