As a handout to my part in the One Night Stand show at San Jose Museum of Art, I provided this little cutout body.
Why did I do this?
Trying to understand racism, I wondered why skin color could make such a difference to how we treat each other. What did that really signify? Weren’t our pancreases the same color? Wasn’t so much underneath the surface the same but we were being blinded by the surface color? What if all we could see was each other’s pancreases? Or kidneys? Or brains? I also noticed that I had a variety of visceral reactions to people simply based on their looks – not just different skin color but facial features, height, weight.
I knew logically that each person was rich in story, experience, potential, and each had their own soul and deserved to strive to be happy. Why do I pull away from certain ones? I’m happier when I’m around happy engaging people. Whatever my initial reaction to them, couldn’t it be one to help make their day? Why not?
What if we actually talked? What could we see then? Could a conversation be mutually rewarding if I were more open? How could I get past these visceral reactions?
It became a long term practice to remind myself of parts of others I could not see.
From a different tack, I began learning firsthand how my body holds emotion. Given stress afflictions, I became more familiar with parts of the body that deal with fear. I wore a wild red and orange brooch that I considered to be my amygdala, which was feeling very stressed at the time. (Our amygdalae handle the fight or flight decision, below consciousness.) I wore it to corporate meetings where people just thought it was a wild pin. But I knew it was my amygdala and I was reminded to take care of her. It was the closest thing to carrying one’s favorite rag-tag teddy bear into corporate. It also helped me remember that each player in that room had their own amygdalae in various states of disarray. Over time I believe this new attention helped the afflictions subside. I’ve found that handling body parts brings up many thoughts and reactions for myself as well as those I’ve shared my work with. It took me three weeks to be comfortable typing the word “rectum” on my website to describe the image I’d posted but erroneously called a colon. Some people go easily and enjoy this conversation. Others cannot hold the item or are disgusted by it. For me, this is all ok. Making these items in soft and engaging fibers with crochet tends to make them about as safe as possible. And since we all own these parts, my deepest hope is that in time, we all – world leaders included – would be very comfortable in our bodies and share many hearty laughs about our predicament. Laura Mappin San Jose Museum of Art One Night Stand June 7, 2007