from my heart to yours
This ongoing multimedia body of work studies both the individual potential to save and / or perpetuate life through blood donation, the contrast in this regard between self and society, and the even further potential benefit should those who have been historically ineligible become empowered to be donors. The virtual presentation is designed to be interacted with by the viewer, sparking a semblance of the sense of exploration and awe visualizing one's powerful, vital cells can have.
Clinically, blood commonly is used for a wide range of issues, such as post-partum hemorrhage, chemotherapy-induced anemia, traumas, and hematologic disorders. According to the Red Cross, approximately 1 in 3 people will require blood in their lifetime; furthermore, a single donation could save up to 3 lives, and different portions of blood can be used in different recipients. The notion that blood donation is required (remuneration typically does not exist so as to ensure honesty and safety in the donor candidacy process) to create national and international reservoirs showcases a unique humanism based on its very scale and scope--a scale of collectivism that contrasts with the cells of the individual donor that then go on to circulate in the recipient(s), and so forth.
A large portion of the population is eligible to partake in blood donation, and the benevolence required to become part of the donor pool (requiring some amount of pain / discomfort in the donation process) further emphasizes this same humanism. Adding to this, blood in particular carries artistic symbolism (family, trust, oath, war / trauma, injury, love) that cannot be replicated by other bodily substances. It is pumped via the heart, and is not dissimilar to the act of artmaking itself--taking from within oneself and giving it to another--perhaps with a sense of intention, to establish a sense of purpose, and certainly with some emotional and / or psychosocial heft. From my heart to yours is an initial foray into exploring these sensations.
Personal reflection thus far:
As the artist, utilizing quite literally my own blood in the work, storing, visualizing, and studying it proved to be an empowering process. I had a sense of "potential energy" that I don't routinely feel in my quotidian existence. Even having witnessed several blood transfusions, run back and forth between patient rooms and the blood bank, and learned physiologic thresholds and outcomes for transfusion, seeing one's own cells through this mindset certainly had the side effect of bestowing a sense of self and benevolent purpose.
I found myself considering myself in relation to the network of people around me that shared my blood type, and feeling a sense of direct simplicity of purpose that has perhaps only been replicated in clear-cut physician-patient circumstances. Involved in this directness is also relinquishing skepticism with respect to what the recipient will go on to do post-transfusion; the act of giving with the intent to help treat is the sole responsibility when the substance goes into an anonymized bank and can be given to anyone who needs it.
Likewise, I found myself fascinated by the discomfort a donor endures in order to donate. That "little pinch"--the squeezing of the ball, the elastic of the tourniquet on sensitive skin, the first insertion of the needle--all to be a part of the donor pool--led to the creation of the Tourniquet oil painting. The slight "squeeze" is apparent in the tie of the elastic, while a slightly reflective, surreal watery quality is superimposed onto the object.
Further thinking on eligibility led to the small series wherein ink developed by Stuart Semple that utilizes blood from self-identified gay men was used to create life forms (perhaps most notably, a fetus). The aim of this series was to represent some of the common goals of transfusion (hemorrhage, anemia) and I will certainly continue to create these works.
Components thus far include:
Video: Into the pool
Painting: Tourniquet reflections (oil on canvas, 18"x24")
Video: First smear
Mixed media: Life forms i, ii, iii, iv (broken glass, Stuart Semple "gay blood" ink, colored pencil, acrylic, graphite on bristol, 9"x12")
Video: Second smear
Drawing: On and on (my blood, acrylic paint, micron on bristol, 9"x12")
Mixed media: On and on ii (my blood, acrylic paint, micron, digital graphic design)
Video: Potential (my blood, micron)
Digital photographs: Petri i, Spring, i, Petri ii, Spring ii
Digital graphic: The relative breakdown of our blood types
Future pieces within this compendium could include a representation of the more emotional component of donation, beyond just the initial self-study and sense of self vs. whole. This could include imagery of the heart and vasculature and representations of and / or actual giving.
I am also interested in the initial motivation--donor behaviors go up after natural disasters. Shortages are frequent. What does this stir in a potential donor? What makes someone allot time for this beyond what current behavioral studies state about benevolence?
Acknowledgement: Huge thank you to Elie Goldberg and Steve Char for their help in this project. Elie prepped my red blood cells in his lab after Steve drew my blood. The experience of awe and feeling that sense of "potential" in oneself was shared among us as we viewed the cells under the microscope.