Past Exhibitions

Two Healing Narratives: Disease, Spirit, Art & Technology

February 2, through March 13, 2007

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Ruth Adams’ photographs force viewers to come face-to-face with her experience with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a cancer that develops in the lymph nodes in the chest and then spreads. This form of cancer is not always terminal, yet the treatment is extensive, exhausting, disheartening, and painful.

One self-portrait was created each day during her year-long treatment. “I wanted to document the transformation of a healthy woman… reveal my devastating decline… and my physical and spiritual recovery,” says Adams. One cannot escape her cancer experiences as she bombards audiences with 350 Polaroids that create a monumental installation measuring eight feet high by forty-five feet wide. Adams adds text to explain her “unremarkable” healing journey.

Adams is an assistant professor at the University of Kentucky, where she teaches traditional, non-silver and digital photography. She received an MFA degree from the University of Miami and her BFA from the Rochester Institute of Technology.



Elaine Defibaugh's artwork was inspired by surgery to correct her atrial septal defect (ASD). The atrial septum is the wall between the left and right atria (upper chambers) of the heart. There is a natural opening in this wall prior to birth and it usually closes naturally. When the opening fails to close, a child has ASD, which may go unnoticed for years.

As part of her recovery process, Defibaugh walked and created drawings in the countryside. These nature encounters led to visual associations between the human body and nature. Comparisons among tree roots, leaves, branches, the heart, lungs and medical technology emerged.

Defibaugh layers these new nature metaphors with X-rays, electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, cardiac catherizations and other diagnostic images she collected. The artwork and artist statement also reflect her initial fears, joys and visions. During her operation, she recalls dream/vision encounters with ancestors and angels who claimed, instructed and protected her. The medical procedures and related experiences engage the full range of human experiences – rational and irrational. The operation and related encounters, combined with her artwork, all contributed to her holistic healing.

Elaine Defibaugh received her MFA degree from the Rochester Institute of Technology and her BFA from East Texas University. She has worked as an adjunct lecturer/professor at RIT and is currently working as an artist, as part of the Chashama Subsidized Studio Space Program in New York City.


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