Sacred Bodymind

Stemming from traditions of Catholicism, the veneration of Saints, and pagan rituals of community care, Sacred Bodymind is a performative retelling of the figural and literal “sick bodymind.” In opposition to those who believe illness causes a poor quality of life, Sacred Bodymind venerates and celebrates my sick bodymind to the pinnacle of Olympian sainthood. Instead of adorning relics, temples, or altars with precious gems, participants are asked to adorn my sick bodymind with plastic, stick-on jewels in a hospital room setting. Inviting participants to embellish my bodymind asks them to consider the “sick bodymind” as divine and valuable, “care” as a collective and time-consuming endeavor, and question the historical exclusion of sick/(dis)abled people from the public sphere.

2 hour 45 minute performance, 2021

Care Bound/Caring For You

Care Bound/Caring For You is an evening of performance debauchery. Bringing together two works, Care Bound and The Dark Manner: Caring For You, the two artists present a double feature show that blurs boundaries and binaries, asking viewers to consider the tensions and overlaps between the comfortable and uncomfortable, care and pain, sick and healthy, hard and soft, willing and unwilling, leather and lace, hot and cold, abled and disabled, straight and queer, submission and control, taut and slack, and anticipation and sensation.

1 hour 15 minute performance, 2021

Soft and Shifting

With the title Soft and Shifting, Genevieve Waller (she/her) and Mary Grace Bernard (she/her) bring together their individual series: The Dark Manner (2015-present) and Metamorphosis (2020-present) to delve into their overlapping interests in transformation, adorning and caring for the body, signs and symbols, and bringing invisible aspects of identity—in this case, unseen (dis)ability and queerness—to the fore.

Two-person exhibition, 2021

Magick Hospital

Featuring work from Hexus Collective, Magick Hospital is a sight-specific installation that explores ritualistic practices performed through modern medical intervention and how these rituals become a protective armor. Contemplating their relationships to physicality, spirituality, and dimensionality in connection with the illnesses they live with every day, the artists use multi-media installation and performances to ask questions regarding the treatment of those with visible and invisible illnesses and disabilities, and whether these treatments serve to make the patient comfortable or to make able-bodied society feel at ease. Magick Hospital highlights medicine as concealment from the constructed stigmas surrounding disability and as a spell of protection against bad spirits and health.

Solo exhibition, 2021

Pain Worth Sharing

An essay that features analyses of performances by Johanna Hedva and Bob Flanagan. By performing the subject— their (dis)abled, chronically ill bodies—both artists expose their interior selves, specifically their bodily experiences, to their exterior selves, namely their identities. Flanagan and Hedva simultaneously display their bodies as art objects to spectators and establish a physical and emotional exchange between the performer and viewers. 

Art writing published via Femme Salée, 2021

Joan Mitchell Center

A five-month long artist residency at the Joan Mitchell Center in New Orleans. 

Artist residency, 2021

Zones of Invisibility (Holy Body Bag)

Chronic mental and physical illnesses are those various body and mind experiences rarely seen in public but which are always present. Individuals with these conditions undergo painful sensations that regularly call for constant care and dependency on self, partners, and technology. With this in mind, Hexus Collective’s installation Zones of Invisibility (Holy Body Bag) ruminates on the “invisibility of chronic illness” offering viewers a crucial understanding of the physicality, spirituality, and dimensionality of crip conditions.

Installation, 2021

Mirror Mirror

(in collaboration with Genevieve Waller). Mirror Mirror presents an exhibition of photography, collage, and film works. Referring to the well-known phrase of the evil stepmother in the Brothers Grimm version of Snow White, the exhibition title conjures ideas of representation, magic, power and narrative. The full phrase “Mirror mirror on the wall, who’s the fairest one of all?” is steeped in racial and gender politics, where the word “fair” is synonymous not only with beauty but implies the superiority of light skin and physical beauty as a woman’s highest achievement. With the works in this exhibition the curators counter and open up a dialogue about these embedded values.

Curated exhibition, 2021

The Forwarding of Embodied Ethical Viewership

An essay analyzing the works of Todd Edward Herman, an artist who’s films and photographs deal with themes of the body and transience, representational taboos and spectatorship, difference and the historic consequences of othering.

Art writing published via DARIA Magazine, 2021

Procession

We the members of Hexus Collective commemorate four disabled artist activists, Liz Sexton, Deborah Williams, Barbara Lisicki, and Paddy Masefield, and the decades-long fight for disability justice and equality (a fight that is particularly prevalent in Denver’s public transportation history). These artists and others founded the Disability Arts Movement (DAM) in the UK. Their images, featured here on protest-like signs, were graciously provided by the UK’s National Disability Arts Collection & Archive (NDACA). Hexus – the three figures you see walking, dressed in white – all have invisible disabilities (conditions like chronic and mental illnesses that are not immediately recognizable as disabilities). We carry images of the artists/activists to honor their contributions to creating fairness in the arts. We also reference the common practice of processing the remains of revered figures through public spaces. Because we walk in the street, we demand space for our disabled bodies.

1 hour 30 minute performance, 2020

Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis consists of a series of photographs, videos with composed soundtracks, and site-specific installations. These works trace the continuous transformation of the artist’s “bodymind” after starting three phases of new drugs developed for cystic fibrosis. Using pink and red colors to symbolize the inside of her bodymind and her perpetual cell renewal, like a caterpillar’s metamorphosis into a butterfly, she envisions extruding herself from a cocoon of regenerative ectoplasm while questioning the drugs’ ultimate purpose: to erase her disabled identity. In addition to the sounds and visuals, the installation also incorporates smell with several bottles of brewed Passion tea to invigorate new senses.

Site-specific installation, digital photographs and videos, archival inkjet prints, 2020

Public Dis(E)ruption

In response to ten weeks in quarantine due to the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, I left my private apartment for the first time to place my body and voice back into the public sphere. Over a ten-week period from April to June, 2020, I travelled to various public locations around Denver, including parks, sidewalks, alleyways, and neutral grounds to scream. 

Performance documentation, digital video, 9 minutes 5 seconds, 2020

As (dis)abled artists ourselves, Hexus Collective seeks to use this essay as a public call for other Denver artists—especially other (dis)abled Denver artists—to take action in our community by sharing knowledge about themselves through their writings and artwork in an effort to connect with and educate our/their audiences.

Art writing published via DARIA Magazine, 2020

Bad Health

Bad Health is Femme Salée’s inaugural zine edition. Inspired by my body & mind experiences living with cystic fibrosis, I edited the Bad Health issue to feature artworks, poems, & creative writings by artists & writers living with chronic illness(es). Contributors present works that demonstrate & reveal their private, daily lives as people living with “bad” health.

$15 → Purchase a copy

Zine published via Femme Salée, 2020

Ritual Performance

(as Hexus Collective). A a two-hour ritual in Boulder, Colorado that invites renewal, growth, and strength to begin the new year. 

2 hour performance, 2020

Shine Piece (After Yoko)

Hexus Collective presents a performance centered on physical (dis)ability and mental illness, and the importance of mutual care and dependency. Inspired by Yoko Ono’s Cut Piece, first performed in 1965, this work activates the audience by inviting them to interact with the primary performer’s body. Rather than audience members taking objects from the performer as they did in Ono’s performance, they will be asked to offer objects as part of a magickal ritual, symbolically healing the performer’s body and mind.

30 minute performance, 2019

Altar(er) Hex

(as Hexus Collective). The exhibition emphasizes the altar as a vehicle for ritual exchange between humans and the divine. By presenting contemporary altars as platforms of resistance, altar-makers illustrate the potential of the altar as a tool for reclaiming power and agency from mainstream institutions. The exhibition also reflects the banishment of magic and magic practitioners to the margins of society and the forced development of secretive practices. Thus, featured artists are presented with the opportunity to negate this secrecy, while also revealing the concept of alterity, or “otherness,” in their multiple interwoven identities.

Curated exhibition, 2019

Reliquary Altar

These twelve reliquaries come together as a spiritual altar to my chronically ill body. A reliquary is a container for relics. Traditionally, relics are the alleged or actual physical remains of Catholic Saints, such as bones, pieces of clothing, or some object associated with the Saint. In this case, the relics are my physical blood and mucus: viscous liquids produced by chronic infection and inflammation, and expelled from my lungs on five different occasions. Using donated jewels from friends and family and found glass bottles throughout New Orleans, I have painstakingly decorated each individual container in order to sanctify and canonize my body and the illness that renders her sick.

Glass, blood, mucus, metal, donated jewels and beads, 2019

Embodied Time, Affective Labor

A nine-minute essay in response to T\lt West’s roundtable discussion on disability and accessibility. 

Art writing published via T\lt West, 2019

(in collaboration with Danielle Cunningham). This exhibition emphasizes the altar as both a physical and non-physical space for personalized ritual exchange between humans and the divine. By pairing contemporary artists alongside religious ofrendas, retablos, and other iconography from the museum’s collections, the exhibition illustrates the altar’s inherent transcendence of time and space. These new altars reject any singular context, operating as platforms of resistance through which altar-makers reinterpret traditional practices and reclaim power from mainstream institutions.

Curated exhibition, 2019

It hurts but it feels good

It hurts but it feels good is comprised of a short video and relics shared from her life as a person living with cystic fibrosis. The film shows the artist in clinic during the end of a routine, but painful, two-stage PICC line procedure in which a catheter is connected to her pulmonary vein, delivering fluids and antibiotics, and is removed by a nurse weeks later. Bernard describes fearing the insertion but deriving relief and even pleasure from the removal. Projected onto life-sized pedestals and subtitled, the film not only embodies Bernard’s commitment to making her art accessible, it also gives the sense that the spectator and Bernard are at least close in scale yet separated by space and time.

Site-specific installation, 2019

Digitally Embodying (Dis)ability

A conversation with Madeleine Boyson followed by a curatorial talk. The exhibition features works that ignore physical and material boundaries. Instead of performing live in front of a public audience, the artists perform off-stage in a private space for digital recording devices, i.e. an audio recorder or a camera, and various computer software. This way, the audio recorder, camera, computer, etc. become the point between the private and public, the material and immaterial, the visible and invisible, the audible and the inaudible. In the end, the completed digital artworks become an immaterial representation for the artists’ material bodies, i.e. a digital embodiment.

Curatorial talk and conversation, 2019

Digital Embodiment

The exhibition reveals (dis)abled artists working within the digital realm as a way to create artworks beyond materiality. Using time-based works that exist only within the digital, each artist explores ideas of care, dependency, healing, pain, and crip time in order to digitally embody the (dis)abled body experience. By transforming the private sphere of (dis)ability into the digital sphere, which can be both private and public, each artist takes agency in revealing an invisible experience to the world via the Internet.

Curated virtual and in-person exhibition, 2019

A paper presentation and performance discussing my interpretation for why performance art is a powerful medium for artists who identify as (dis)abled.

While focusing on performances by Carolyn Lazard and myself, this project focuses on topics of care and dependency in conjunction with the theoretical terms: bodymind, (dis)ability, and crip time. How do these (dis)abled artists incorporate care and dependency in performance? In addition, via an analysis of writings and interviews with Constantina Zavitsanos and Park McArthur, I ask: How can the above terms help us better understand the care and dependency involved in the private realm of (dis)ability? And, how does the realm of (dis)ability expand to the public and confront the political via performance?

Paper presentation and performance, 2019

Being Present

Performed in three parts over four evenings, Being Present consists of a physical revealing, a revelatory reading, and a re-concealing. Before entering the gallery, which is arranged like a living room, the audience is asked to remove their shoes. For each mini-performance, Bernard begins by removing her jewelry, followed by her clothing in what is effectively an introduction to the invisibility of life as a chronically ill person. She reveals a frail, pale body not immediately recognizable as such while clothed. Viewers are confronted as they view her body through their phone cameras to record the performance, adding an additional layer of perception to what may already be an inaccurate preconception about performance, as well as the (dis)abled body. Transitioning to the second part of the performance, Bernard moves to a chair from her own home and creates distance from the traditionally sterile white walls of the gallery space as she begins to read from her diary. In this way, Bernard makes the private public. Concluding, she closes her journal and re-dresses, once again covering her body and concealing her illness. Bernard leaves the room as viewers lower their phones.

Installation, four 7 min performances, youtube videos, 2019

The argument is my interpretation for why performance art is a powerful medium for artists who identify as (dis)abled.

While focusing on performances by Carolyn Lazard and myself, this project focuses on topics of care and dependency in conjunction with the theoretical terms: bodymind, (dis)ability, and crip time. How do these (dis)abled artists incorporate care and dependency in performance? In addition, via an analysis of writings and interviews with Constantina Zavitsanos and Park McArthur, I ask: How can the above terms help us better understand the care and dependency involved in the private realm of (dis)ability? And, how does the realm of (dis)ability expand to the public and confront the political via performance?

Paper presentation at 107th CAA, 2019

You need to gain weight to stay healthy

For you need to gain weight to stay healthy, I wanted to reveal a type of care which causes pain but is needed in order to stay healthy in the long run. On a mid-May day, I nervously handed out little tasters of weight gain shake to everyone sitting in the audience. I then waited for five minutes to pass and proceeded to take off my clothes down to my nude-colored underwear. I was shaking uncontrollably. Once I mixed the four weight gain powder packets with four glasses of milk, which added up to a total of three thousand calories, I drank all four glasses as my belly swelled with pain. Then, I got up, started putting my clothes back on, and sat on the ground. As I was putting on my shoes, I quickly grabbed the nearest garbage can to puke what I had just imbibed.

30 minute performance, 2018

Bodies with chronic illness may reveal no signs of illness. Bodies with chronic illness are painful, require maintenance, and cost money. Bodies with chronic illness are the subject and the object. Bodies with chronic illness are both embodied and disembodied. They are bodies with technology.

Bodies with chronic illness are disabled bodies. Because bodies with chronic illness have invisible disability, their stories are harder to tell through the visual arts. One way to overcome that barrier is through performance art.

“Revealed: performing the disabled body with chronic illness” is a project that analyzes two contemporary artists with chronic illness in an effort to broaden our current perspectives of complex embodiment, i.e. the fullness of the human condition.

Paper presentation at ASAP/10, 2018

this body of work

(in collaboration with Alessandra Pearson). this body of work is a photographic series of me, my private body, and my invisible disability. this is a moment of me sharing my hidden life with you. the spectator. the viewer. this is my body as subject and object. this is me, the subject, revealing my body to you as object. this is my journey to becoming more comfortable with exposure. this is me choosing to make the invisible visible. this is a declaration that my body isn’t functional. my body isn’t productive. my body is work. my body is disabled. my body is embodiment. my body is a matter through space and time. my body takes up space and time. my body is me.

Digital photographs, 2018

Revealed Body

Revealed Body is my very first performance. I wanted to perform for this project in order to understand the lived body experience and what it means to be embodied in front of an audience, in the public realm. I chose to look only at the camera filming in front of me instead of engaging with the audience. I felt this was important because I distinctly wanted my body to be both subject and object of this work of art.

30 minute performance followed by discussion, 2018

Cystic Fibrosis Coloring Book

A cystic fibrosis (CF) focused coloring book for children and adults funded by the Boomer Esiason Foundation. 2ooo copies, along with 2000 boxes of coloring pencils, were donated to hospitals across the United States to be distributed to CF “patients” when they arrive at the hospital. 

Through my own hospitalization experiences, I found that other people with CF might have a similar need: a stress-reducing activity that keeps them focused on something outside of the hospital atmosphere, but also educates them on why they are in the hospital. 

$20 → Purchase a copy

Coloring book, 2018

Anticipatient

(in collaboration with Ben Samuels, Susan Gordon, and Ben Shea). Waiting rooms, waiting for the needle to prick, waiting for the treatment to finish, waiting for the illness to pass, waiting to feel better, waiting to feel worse, waiting to die. Anticipatient is a visual exploration of the sterile spaces in which many of us find ourselves when facing anxieties brought on by the tests and treatments we need to examine, work against, and work with what’s going on in our bodies and minds.

Digital video, 3:51 minutes, 2015

Sixty Five Roses

As a two-month long project to raise awareness and funds for people living with cystic fibrosis. I created one artwork a day for sixty-five days. Each work took me approximately five hours to complete. Which included gathering high scans of each work, uploading them to the internet, and posting them to social media. All proceeds were donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation. Writing sixty-five roses over and over again was a way for me to calm my anxiety and manage my panic attacks after graduating from undergrad. I still did not know the existence of therapy, prozac, meditation, and other healthier forms of anxiety and depression management. 

Ink and acrylic on paper, social media posts @marygraceart, 2015

Cough, Cough

(in collaboration with Melissa Tamporello). It was first created and displayed for an art event in May, 2014. The idea stemmed from my chronic illness, cystic fibrosis, and the abundance of medical supplies that comes with sickness. The installation creates an environment for viewers to experience. You are isolated when you step between the plastic sheeting, exposed to bright lighting, and a chair that you feel obligated to sit in. When a viewer sits in the chair they will put on the headphones and hear an array of discomforting sounds that emulate being sick in the hospital.

Cough, Cough is meant to evoke ideas and emotions that help the viewer understand what it is like to be forced to spend prolonged periods of time in a hospital. As a patient, you must relinquish any power you have and put your life in the hands of others. After so many times you become numb to the experience because relinquishing your strength is better than relinquishing your life. 

Installation, 2014

Anesthetize

(in collaboration with Rachel June and Melissa Tamporello). The first exploration of my chronically ill, white, female bodymind undergoing intravenous antibiotic treatment. These images are the remaining photographs of the many that were lost in time. 

Digital photographs, 2014