WHACK’ed ... and then everything was different
TRAUMATIC BRAIN INJURY
by Eliette Markhbein
March 15 - April 15 2012
Opening Reception: March 15
6:00pm - 8:00pm
Sponsored by Rusk Institute for Rehabilitation Medicine
NYU Langone Medical Center
550 First Avenue, New York 10016
Medical Science Building, First Floor
WHACK’ed ... and then everything was different, honors traumatic brain injury survivors who changed perceptions of TBI and disability in general and became role models for millions of others. The series of large scale portraits personify the various causes of TBI as well as the diversity of people it affects. The portraits include those of rock and movie stars, Keith Richards and George Clooney; Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords; ABC-TV news correspondent Bob Woodruff; ARMY SPEC (retired) Claudia Carreon, a veteran of the Iraqi war; athletes Troy Aikman (NFL Hall of Famer) and Pat Lafontaine (NHL Hall of Famer); a very spirited 5 year old, Alexis Verzal, who was shaken and thrown into a wall at age 2; Trisha Meili, the "Central Park Jogger"; and Timothy Pruce, New York Brain Injury Association Vice-President.
The concept and formalism of my work is informed by my personal experience with traumatic brain injury and evokes the need to reassemble fragments of a pre-existing identity in order to create a new self. Thus the drawing/ cutting/ collage technique used throughout the series, a reflection and a silent testimony to the three phases of traumatic brain injury: Fractured/ Reassembled/ Whole.
First drawn in charcoal on paper based on photographs cropped to desired intimacy, the drawings are then imperfectly cut with scissors into squares and reassembled as a portrait on a painted canvas. “I use paper to draw the portraits because like a human being, paper is organic, resilient and fragile. It bends, absorbs and rips; and it bears witness to its endurance by exhibiting its scars in the process. “
The uneven grid effect resulting from the drawing/ cutting/ collage technique illustrates how TBI disrupts sensory and perceptual processes, such as the seamless way in which one's mind functions pre-injury - a phenomenon one is unconscious of until it is lost - and substitutes it with jagged awareness and fractured perceptions. The grid also acts as a metaphor for the support and structure survivors of TBI require to live a productive and rewarding life. Each portrait therefore is organized in a grid formation that reflects both an inward and an outward representation of traumatic brain injury. Like the philosopher Emmanuel Levinas, I believe the face is not only the outward sign of a personage, but the naked essence of humanity. As such, it reveals an extraordinary vulnerability and an astonishing resilience. By representing faces of TBI survivors on a large scale, I hope to elicit emotional intimacy and universality.
I want my work to bring awareness of Traumatic Brain Injury and its effects on people so the public at large better understand its symptoms and help and support injured soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan as well as their families, to transition and adapt to a new life. Based on my experience as an Artist in Residence at The Mount Sinai Rehabilitation Center in New York, and the success of using art as a modality for the rehabilitation of traumatic brain injury patients, I have partnered with the Brain Injury Association of America and the Society for Arts in Healthcare to educate the public about TBI through a touring exhibit of the portraits and to raise funds by auctioning the portraits to support a nationwide Artists in Residence program to serve people with traumatic brain injury in hospitals and rehabilitation facilities.