What is done to the self in order to weather pain feels, at times, intangible.
    Certain types of sea slugs will self–decapitate in order to rid themselves of parasites––eventually, their entire body will grow back, free of infection. Lizards are known to frequently drop tail when threatened as a convenient escape tactic. A dog caught in a trap will sooner gnaw off its own paw than be left with a festering wound, at the mercy of whoever set it. 
    So often in nature we see evidence of similar defensive phenomena––from toxic-yet-alluring flower petals to the poisonous, cyanide-filled pits of stone fruits. Beauty and terror reside within the same body.
    Perhaps the human equivalent is, instead, the performance of wellness when under duress.
    During my early teenage years, I knew something was off. Each month when my period arrived I would be bedridden, unable to function due to pain and dizziness. Things became worse as I grew up, until eventually, at nineteen, I began to experience blackouts each month. 
    Despite access to reliable healthcare, the response to my issue was lukewarm at best. Within that year alone I was put on various forms of birth control (“To fix your hormones, honey.”), shilled dietary solutions, and presumptively advised on methods of comfortable sex. One doctor even suggested I get my fertility tested.
    At times, I have envied the creatures able to abandon at will the parts of their bodies that plague them.
    After moving in pursuit of graduate school I was diagnosed with endometriosis, a condition wherein tissue similar to the lining of your uterus grows outside of it and sheds during the menstrual cycle. This results in a debilitating, cyclical pain, hormonal imbalances, fertility issues, and the development of long-lasting internal scar tissue. The issue that had plagued my teenage years and into my early twenties finally had a name, but instead of feeling peace, I felt the overwhelming need to fix myself. To put on a show. To prove just how well I could possibly be. 

    Stone Fruit is an exploration of the performative femininity intrinsic to my experience with chronic illness and its impact on my relationship with myself and others. Large-scale alternative process photographic prints of my own pelvic MRIs are displayed alongside contact prints of vintage garments, lingerie, and flower petals; blood vessels, reproductive organs, and tissue become akin to the folds of fabric, pencil lines of plant matter, and the boning of a corset. 
    Thematic elements of each image are staged in a papier-mâché tableau, referencing classic vanitas still life paintings. From the picked-clean pelvic bone to a floral arrangement teeming with bugs, each paper sculpture is an uncanny facsimile of a real-life object. This is a false and flat, but appealing, reflection of the reality of inhabiting an inherently unreliable body. 
    From afar, the illusion of normalcy is present. Take a closer look, however, and there is something lurking under the surface, a poisonous pit hidden in the flesh.

, 7” x 5”, selection of sixty-four silver gelatin photograms of rose petals.

Tend Your Wounds for Those Whore Are Watching.
, 11” x 30”, photogram.

Who Do You Say I Am?
, 11” x 30”, photogram.

© 2024 Claire Tomkiw