My mother died, at age 85, shortly after she fell and broke her hip. During her last days, the whole family was back and forth to the hospital constantly. The whole time, from hip breakage to death, was less than a month, but felt like an endless campaign. On one of the many long drives back and forth, my mind slid to the Bayeux Tapestry...
The Bayeux Tapestry? Hey, it's how my mind works. But the image of all those figures involved in a major struggle, the confusion, so much happening....it allowed me to make visual sense of what was happening, I guess. So after she died, I sewed some other kitchen towels into the Illness Campaign, 4 panels, each 26"h x 27"w
Medical Battle #1: the staff. Let's start at the bottom. The dark figures here represent the lowest paid personnel - the ones who clean the floors, empty the bedpans, the modern serfs holding walkers instead of pitchforks. Above them are the nurses, unfairly pictured as stone figures holding medical tools (and an angel holding open the book). The 2 doctors are seen here as wise men, literally top of the structure. Floating above their heads is the flayed figure of the patient. It seemed totally appropriate to picture her as a skinless victim.
The words along the red borders are just random selections of the conversations, along with all the random, meaningless numbers.
Medical Battle #2: waiting. The flayed figure here is imprisoned in a cage of crutches, IV stands, etc. The faces behind her all come from a very old photo, taken at a funeral in Poland. I can only imagine that a funeral would be a time when the whole family was together, so it was recorded. Here, they stand vigil over my mother.
Medical Battle #3: choices. Before she died, there was a time when a long term recovery was a possibility. Here, each member of the immediate family is pictured, along with clothing care labels, representing the many different opinions. A poorly focused photo of my mom is semi-hidden in the center, surrounded by a maze of wheelchairs. Here's a closer look:
And the flayed figure is struggling to get out.
Medical Battle #4: time. At one point, a doctor came in and asked my mom if she knew what day it was. I realized that I didn't know. If the days had all jumbled together for me, I couldn't imagine how she would know. So here we have a calendar falling apart, days coming undone. A closer look:
A couple of notes: the devices held by the doctors and nurses in the first battle are ones used in diabetic care. I am embarrassed to admit that when I googled medical equipment/devices, they were the ones I could find, and I carelessly used them. My mom was not diabetic. Although family members had varying opinions, there a remarkable lack of animosity. Although they have been pictured ruthlessly here, most of the doctors and nurses were fine, helpful people. This is an impressionistic battle story, not an accurate medical record, OK?
This piece was exhibited at a one woman show at St Peters Church Gallery in NYC. One of my critique group said that I was 'airing dirty laundry' so that's how I displayed it.