P.O. Box 92, Gerlach, NV  89412
Phone (775) 557-2526
Cell (210) 842-1196

lisa@drakaarts.org

 

Feedher

Lisa Nigro
Artist

 


Mixed Media Installation
1994/2004
Austin, TX / San Francisco, CA

8’ x 8’ x 2’
steel trough, water, black ink, latex, staples

An expression of my fears and feelings concerning breast cancer and my aunt’s mastectomy — I was working with performance artist Linda Montano when I conceived this piece. Linda had been pressing me to confront death, the aging process, and other life issues, so I began investigating my feelings surrounding a favorite aunt’s bought with cancer and final loss of one breast. My aunt’s displaying of her wound and her freedom in discussing her mastectomy, intrigued and horrified me. I was simultaneously struck by the fragility of the human body and by the possibility that this could happen to me. My aunt described her wound as a deformity and explained to me that she was fortunate because “many men leave their wives after they have this type of operation,” and her husband had no intentions of leaving her. I was amazed by the strength she projected, yet I knew she was burying an incredible amount of pain deep within her bosom.

The isolated breast and the stapled spaces between symbolize an attempt to seal shut the wound. The waters are indicative of the human body being made up of mostly water, and its inability to survive without it. The blackness is introduced as a contradiction to this fact, and an indication of the presence of the disease-causing cancer. Black, being the absorption of all colors, suggests denseness. The darkness serves as a reminder of the studies that ascertain contaminated drinking water and pesticides are the two major causes of breast cancer among women. Once again, the water works in a contradictory manner; its calm and quiet presence also represents a wish to alleviate and sooth the pain attributed to this type of loss.

While looking at FeedHer, the viewer has no way out; a circle has enclosed the objects. Some of the breasts appear to be drowning; others seem to be in search of the other missing half. For many people, the loss of a breast is equated with the loss of femininity. Pressures and attitudes from popular culture and mass media make it clear that a woman could not possibly be a whole and sexual being if she is lacking a mammary gland, and it is presumed that a woman with two different size breasts would naturally be categorized as “freak.” Woman is victim, and she has no other choice but to deal with the situation.

I was influenced, to some degree, by the work of video-installation artist Mary Lucier in which she drew parallels between scarification of the land and scarification of the body. One of her most impressive videos used the scars caused by drawing rubber from rubber trees in contrast with scars caused by breast cancer and the breast reconstruction process. This particular video helped me to understand why my aunt had chosen not to go through breast reconstruction.

I contemplated making a direct political reference to the cancer issue by providing statistics as a wall piece in conjunction with FeedHer, but decided against it so as to maintain visual purity. For fear of sounding preachy, I opted to leave room for varying interpretations. Evidently, FeedHer is not just a reaction to my aunt’s painful experience; it is a serious projection of my own fears related to breast cancer. Facts being, cancer is on the rise and so too are global governments, administrations, and corporations who have no vested interest in preventing further pollution of the environment or our water supply, hence, no interest in protecting the health and existence of humanity.

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