Goucher is pleased to present In the Dark: An Exploration of Chronic Illness, an exhibition of new handmade cyanotype photographs by Baltimore-based artist duo DanaidX.
DanaidX, whose name culls from a Greek myth about women cursed by the gods to endlessly fill a cistern riddled with holes, is the collaborative formed by writer/data engineer-cum photographer Hope Brooks and artist Angela Yarian.
With a wide-range of archetypal visual references from art history to punk-rock, to science-fiction, Brooks and Yarian’s images of the female body in everyday domestic life explore the space between creativity and pain in quotidian experience. In so doing, the works invite viewers to question their own understanding of such concepts as rest, wellness, work/life balance, vulnerability, and the passage of time.
“The experience of chronic illness and pain is often one of voicelessness, powerlessness, and invisibility. The way we understand each other as human beings is through connecting our own embodied experience with that of someone else. If we do not share a common experience, then cultural narratives and stories enable us to build empathetic bridges to cross that gap. Most people experience pain, exhaustion, and illness as one chapter of their life with a beginning and an end. Disclosure of pain, struggle, or vulnerability are usually met with shame. When faced with physical limitations, we learn that the moral choice is to push through. Not pushing through is unacceptable. There is no familiar non-linear story for those whose bodies struggle in an endless loop of suffering; for those who cannot push through. The gap between acceptable embodied experiences and that of chronic illness widens into a nearly unbridgeable chasm.
This work emerged from a friendship that grew from a common experience of pain. We have chosen to work in cyanotype partially because we are working out of chronic illness. This is a process that can be achieved in small “time boxed” segments, with body doubling, and mutual support at every step. We are committed to building a sustainable practice that views our bodily limitations as fertile ground for the moments of surprising encounter that creativity brings. Working with digital photography enables us to explore the human figure without the strain that drawing and painting place upon the artist’s body. We use cyanotype—a 170-year-old non-toxic photographic printing process—because of the visceral physicality of the experience. Two liquids are measured, mixed, and brushed. The coated paper must wait in darkness, and then be exposed to light. Each unique print is agitated separately in water baths, and no matter how precisely the process is followed every print emerges slightly different. Through the playful call and response of photoshoots, through the rhythmic repetition of editing and printing, we slowly discover images that resonate with our experiences.
When confronted with other people’s pain, the instinct is to remove that discomfort by either looking away, or trying to fix it. In sharing this work we are asking the viewer to enter uncomfortable spaces with a different posture. The vulnerability of these images is an invitation to join in that vulnerability through the work of stretching the imagination beyond pity, beyond judgment, beyond fear. Pain is always difficult but isolation and shame need not compound it. Chronic illness does not have to be in the dark.”
The collaborative Baltimore-based duo comprising DanaidX, Hope Brooks and Angela Yarian, formed through discovering their shared experiences of pain. Yarian spent 10 years unable to make work because of a debilitating illness, despite holding a degree in art. Likewise, Brooks, a longtime writer and data engineer, also wrestles with her own chronic pain issues. Emerging from a quest to make art from a place that acknowledges present realities, their collaboration resists trying to be different, more abled-bodies than they are. Through an attentive, slow-moving method of making cyanotypes, they embrace limitations as a fertile ground for creative work, and as a possibility for expanding the dialogue on what constitutes a successful art practice and life. DanaidX’s name comes from the Greek myth about the danaid sisters, cursed by the gods to endlessly fill a cistern riddled with holes. Chronic illness makes simple tasks into broken cisterns. DanaidX asks: what if we were able to plug those holes for each other?Learn more