Personal Project: When You Hear Hoofbeats

I try to focus this blog on my press work, with some nods to my personal work, but today’s post will be a little about my personal work and life.

A month ago, I was contacted by a staff member with the Joan Hisaoka Gallery, a part of the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts,  about making a work for the 2016 Alchemical Vessels exhibition and benefit as a friend, Jeremy Flick, recommended me to them.

This was an interesting challenge in two ways; one, the work had to be made, in part, from a cigar box we were given (the vessel) and two, it had to be on the theme of “Healing.” A secondary aspect to the theme was the option of making it a collaboration by asking a series of questions, created by the Executive Director, of someone that you knew who has gone through a trauma and healed.

Being as I am big into collaboration, hence this blog and my press, I wanted to go with that angle, as the most I have healed from is a broken bone.


Postcard for the exhibition

So here is where it gets personal, about a year and a half ago my wife was diagnosed with a degenerative disease, Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS). This is a genetic disease that creates faulty collagen—found in joints, blood vessels, skin, and organs, and can leave the individual in a constant state of underlying pain. So far, my wife has been strong, but its only through continued PT and other therapy. EDS keeps my wife in a constant state of pain, at minimum what many would call a 3 or 4 on a pain scale, she calls her regular 1.

This has been tough on us, but it is something we continually work on and learn from. This project from the Hisaoka gallery was my chance to help my wife on a therapeutic level. So, we created “When You Hear Hoofbeats.”

Here is the piece info:

Title: When You Hear Hoofbeats

Medium: Laser cut cigar box, wood stain, ribbon, india ink, kozo paper

Statement: It’s a common adage in the medical profession. “When you hear hoofbeats, think horses, not zebras.” Doctors are taught that, when making a diagnosis, the most likely cause is the most common ailment. So doctors forget that zebras exist. This is how the zebra has come to serve as the de-facto mascot for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (EDS), a rare genetic disorder that causes the body to produce faulty collagen—found in joints, blood vessels, skin, and organs. Patients with EDS exhibit such seemingly random and unrelated symptoms as frequent dislocations, low blood pressure, and gum recession. Patients with EDS can go undiagnosed for years, many blamed as hypochondriacs, in their search for an answer. Once diagnosed, they are faced with coping with an illness that is little understood and invisible to everyone around them.

In 2014, my wife was finally diagnosed with EDS—following years of bizarre medical complications—after dislocating her shoulder in her sleep. “When You Hear Hoofbeats” represents our journey toward learning to cope with such an all-encompassing and confusing condition. We are learning to live with EDS and its outcome, but it remains a constant struggle.

So this post has two purposes; one, spread the word about this benefit for the Smith Center for Healing and the Arts and two, to let you all see another side to my art making and collaboration, along with letting a few more people know about EDS. Check out the exhibition info to learn more and maybe buy a ticket and collect some art.


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