Careful Space, Gentle Matters
Careful Space, Gentle Matters highlights the work of two Alberta-based artists who center and affirm their lived experiences of disability and chronic illness. Bodies all have wonderfully different and complex capacities. However, many of our daily spaces continue to be designed and programmed as if all bodies are the same. In response to this lack of consideration, many who live with disability and chronic illness experience feelings of grief, trauma, frustration and anger. The artists in Careful Space, Gentle Matters, explore these complex feelings in addition to celebrating the important forms of care, rest, and joy that they gently make with themselves, and with community.
Chelsey Campbell’s work examines the gentle rituals of care and intimacy during surgical recovery and illness. By magnifying mold growths and painting them in bright colours, Nicole Jones focuses on the often-unacknowledged environmental toxins that cause her chronic illness to flair. The artworks in the exhibition are paired with visual descriptive poetry by writer and poet Meredith Thompson. The online ATL-text poetry is available as the virtual guide to the exhibition for anyone with visual impairments, which is also accessible in audio format through the QR codes in the exhibition. In addition to the educational catalogue, Careful Space, Gentle Matters has an educational zine developed by Chelsey Campbell. This zine is an interactive introductory guide to talking about life with disability.
Curated by Robin Lynch
Former Curator/Manager of Travelling Exhibitions Northwest
Featured image: Nicole Jones, Goodnight Moon, 2022, Mixed Media
Nicole Jones is a young, disabled artist working in Northern Alberta. She was born andraised in the small town of Fairview and has studied Visual Art at Grande Prairie Regional College and Emily Carr University of Art and Design in Vancouver. Her main focus is abstract painting, which often has sculptural elements. In 2017, at age 18, Nicole was diagnosed with Lyme Disease, now, at 23 she is still dealing with the lasting effects of the illness. This journey has inspired her work and she uses it to bring awareness to Lyme which is grossly misunderstood and underrepresented. Her work aims to create a visual representation of her relationship with her body through the use of vibrant colours and playful shapes. Currently, she is working on completing her BFA remotely through Emily Carr University and has plans to earn an MFA, in the hopes of one day becoming an art instructor.
Much of Nicole’s work is inspired by her relationship with her body, pain, and chronic illness. Lately, she has been exploring themes of growth, bacteria, molds, and other environmental toxins that cause her Lyme Disease to flare. To her, mold is also a metaphor for illness itself, as well as a lack of care. Like a forgotten fruit or a damaged home, neglected by its owner and left to rot, the healthcare system is leaving millions of chronic illness sufferers without proper care, due to malpractice or simply a lack of research. Lyme Disease patients often suffer for 10, 20, 50 plus years before ever finding someone who is willing to listen and believe their story. To Nicole, this is the most important form of care that someone can receive: to be heard, understood, and believed. By blowing up tiny mold growths into large-scale, colourful paintings, Nicole aims to create a voice for those who have been silenced, hopes to aid in breaking down the stigma that surrounds chronic illness.
The crack of the back, the weary sigh of tired limbs as they shift and grind into position, the sinewy snap of muscle stricken between malformed bone and flesh. Disability and chronic pain are a daily intervention, a constant renegotiation of an imperfect body’s shifting terms and capacities.
My research examines my body as both a medical object and a social construct; exploring the liminal space between patient and person, body and self. Drawing from my intimate history with chronic pain and disability, I am interested in the tenuous nature of the disabled body within social and medical frameworks fixated on diagnosis and cure.
Utilizing medical documentation, data, and personal journals from a recent recovery period, I intend to recontextualize these illness experiences through printmaking, performance, and photography. Through these explorations my work seeks to create space for the body in pain, lend agency and voice to imperfect form, and reclaim the medicalized body as a reflection of self.