What art have you seen that addresses illness, healing, or fertility?
September 18, 2012 9:16 PM   Subscribe

What great art have you seen that addresses illness/healing/fertility loss?

I've outed myself here today as someone with cancer. That was scary, but I felt like I got a big hug via memail.

I cried a lot today. And realized a few minutes ago that I need to release this fear and anger somehow. And preferably in a way that has a chance of being meaningful down the road.

I've taken and failed college photography, ceramics, ballet, (failed as in received an F) and got a C in singing for non-music majors. I used to make greeting cards, and still have some supplies for that. Of course, I knit. I would totally take another crack at ceramics when the time is right, but I'm hoping to pick up something exponentially less expensive.

So. In hopes of finding inspiration, direction and some solace, I'd like to look at art that has either dealt directly with the theme of illness or healing or fertility, or that helped you through the experience of that. Not death and not specifically child loss, beciase the fertility bit is just something I'm a little worried about, not a known quantity.

Dark themes are ok. I can relate to that. Happy and peppy is fine too, because I miss being happy and peppy. Dance, painting, songs, poems. Throw them at me.
posted by bilabial to Media & Arts (7 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
The self portraits of Rembrandt.

Years ago, I had a book which showed some of his self portraits and talked about his life. He had a hard life and a series of personal tragedies. His self portraits seemed really sad and pained for long time. But in one of him as an older man, I always felt like he looked like he had finally made his peace with it, like he had healed emotionally. My recollection is it was this piece. It was my favorite for a long time.

But it meant something to me in part in the context of the series of self portraits. I was having a hard time at the time and I was very drawn to the impression of being able to heal and make peace with something personally difficult. I found the image of Rembrandt as an older man who was seemingly at peace and no longer wracked with emotional pain very soothing, comforting, and hopeful. I clung to it for a time.
posted by Michele in California at 9:52 PM on September 18, 2012 [5 favorites]

Frida Kahlo? After polio in childhood, and then a bus accident in her teens, she was left in a full-body cast (from the accident, not the polio) and had lots of pain and also fertility problems for the rest of her life. She dealt with the disability in large part by painting, and much of her art reflects the issues around her infertility and chronic pain.

Best of luck to you. You're in my thoughts.
posted by librarina at 10:32 PM on September 18, 2012 [1 favorite]

Well, this may be less about the artwork than the artist, but Chuck Close comes to mind. He did really photo-realistic work, suffered a spinal artery collapse, and found a new pixelated style of continuing his artwork that in many ways is more successful.

Viewing or reading performance art scores may or may not be up your alley; artists like Marina Abramović have done many varied pieces on illness and fertility.
posted by vegartanipla at 10:42 PM on September 18, 2012

As for fertility, no art comes close to the incredible presence and strength of paleolithic Venus figurines.
posted by bru at 7:45 AM on September 19, 2012

Jodi Bassett, who is mostly bedridden with severe myalgic encephalomyelitis, is also an artist. My favorite works of hers are her hummingbirds, which are for her a metaphor for people with ME.
posted by jocelmeow at 9:58 AM on September 19, 2012

Rodin's Fallen Caryatid Carrying her Stone.
posted by rjs at 10:15 AM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

This is one of the most beautiful reactions I've seen to realizing frailty in the body. Ever. From an MFA show dealing with a woman coming to terms with possible infertility.
posted by Sweetchrysanthemum at 10:45 PM on September 19, 2012 [1 favorite]

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