On the morning of September 20, 2012, eight years ago now, I was riding my 1981 Honda motorcycle I restored to running order with my own hands to work. Someone who was mistakenly driving their car south in my northbound lane hit my bike head on. Because I was a very meticulous rider who always wore protective equipment my injuries were not as bad as they could have been. My left wrist was shattered into uncountable pieces and my right wrist and forefinger were also broken. As I writhed in pain on the gurney in the ER my mother told me on the phone she didn’t feel like helping me while I recovered and wished me luck. I didn’t hear from the rest of my family after that so I was left to care for myself, alone, my hands immobilized by casts. I only had movement in my right thumb, ring finger and pinky finger.
As you might imagine this was an excruciating 8 week long ordeal to endure. I was in unimaginable pain, alone, frightened, abandoned. Two weeks before my casts were supposed to be removed I sat weeping on my couch at 1 a.m. because I wanted to end my life to make the pain stop but I physically couldn’t. I couldn’t even brush my own hair. My tears weren’t because I was sad about dying. I was sad because I had no feasible way to end my life. Two weeks later when my casts were finally removed my first thought was “I should have killed myself.” For months afterward just hearing the word “casts” would make me break down and weep.
I think the worst part of the entire experience was feeling as though my humanity had been taken away from me. When friends would sometimes stop by to take me to the grocery store no one would look at me as I walked around in my casts and messy hair. I could see them stare at me and then avert their eyes when I tried to acknowledge them. They said nothing. It was devastating to be treated as something not even human. After my casts were removed I struggled with a paralyzing depression. I went to physical therapy. I went to talk therapy to deal with cutting ties with my narcissistic mother and the rest of my family. I started working on rebuilding another motorcycle. I began to heal.
Eight months after my casts were removed I started experimenting with a hybrid medium I thought might work. I wanted to combine quilting–a medium I had been playing with for a few years–with drawing. My undergraduate and graduate work in my art degrees had been centered around drawing, in particular figure drawing. Shakespeare said that art is a mirror held up to nature and I found the mirror held up to the fundamental human nature of the nude body to be the most beautiful and compelling of all art. So in my experiments combining quilting and drawing I focused on the nude.
While I was in my casts I spent a lot of time on Reddit. One of the things that was fairly prominent on Reddit were the presence of naked selfies posted on r/gonewild. I hadn’t really spent much time at all looking at porn on the internet so it was a bit odd to see so much of it in one place. And maybe because I was living my own dehumanizing experience at the time I started to really *see* the dehumanization at the center of pornography. I wanted to transform that dehumanization into beauty.
Eight years later I have honed my experimental hybrid quilting/drawing medium to a fine point. My work has remained focused on the transformation of dehumanization into beauty. I unfortunately don’t have to look very far to find dehumanization. Whether it’s in pornography, old photo albums donated to the thrift store, old books or the opioid epidemic I want to to fight against it in the same way I transformed my own dehumanizing experience into something beautiful.