For my second major artistic project focusing on abandoned human structures, Under the Skin is an interdisciplinary exploration of loss and trauma through silver gelatin photographs and a collection of original poems. I combine images of the decommissioned Air Force hospital in St. Marie, MT and free verse poems to explore how personal, intergenerational trauma lives within my queer body, and how my body is wrapped up in the medical sphere. This creative thesis compels the audience to consider the experiences we carry with us and how these ruptures and traumas can manifest in the body, particularly the queer body, and in language itself.
I traveled to St. Marie and photographed stirruped beds, overgrown nurseries, operating theaters, a morgue, and a basement crawlspace with military rations a family of coyotes has been stealing since the base’s abandonment in the 1970s. These images provide the tonal background and springboard for my poetry which focuses on abuse to women in the medical field, particularly my own experiences of not being believed, fear of childbirth, queer discrimination, dysmorphia, and the language used to discuss my body. I supplemented the autobiographical element with a literature review through the Ridge Collection to access medical terminology, legal cases of abuse to female and queer bodies, and stories of trauma survivors. This additional research puts my experience in conversation with the larger scope of this abuse and manipulation within the power dynamics of medicine.
The photographs offer access points for the viewer that are immediate and grounded, more relatable than specific narratives. The viewer can imagine themselves among the mold, and then dive into the more difficult, specific stories of trauma within the poetry. The interdisciplinary approach allows for marginalized narratives to be more accessible to the general public. I have struggled for years to convey my own trauma with language because of cultural contexts and shame surrounding discussions of abuse. This project creates a storytelling platform that presents realities in the medical sphere while also presenting these experiences with careful language and empathy.