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Monday, 14 May 2012

Mother's Mask

When I was studying for my degree my tutor gave me some of the best advice regarding my art work - she told me that my art should be about what I love, what I know and what speaks to me. This is probably the most personal piece of artwork I have created.
Last summer after a two year battle my mother was diagnosed with terminal mouth cancer. After undergoing some major surgery and radiotherapy my mother gave me her radiotherapy mask and asked me to make a piece of art from it. Initially I just sat and stared at the mask. I wanted to create a piece of work that spoke of my mothers battles, support, loss of identity, loss of voice, hope, love, courage, love of tea and the terrible disease that is cancer. How do you get all of that into one piece? And more importantly create a piece that motivates and encourages my mother to keep up the fight and not focus of the dreadfulness if this disease. I continued to just stare at the mask.
After a few conversations and fun day out with my mother I decided that I needed to get to work. I think my mother was beginning to think the mask had got buried in the studio and would not emerge again!!!
I decided I would make a piece that emphasised the key issues that I felt my mother was going through:
1. the loss of her voice- by this I don't mean literally, after several operations and the loss of half of her tongue my mothers speech is not as clear as it used to be. This can be just as frustrating for the family as it is for my mother - especially when you are out shopping and the shop assistant talks to you rather than respond to my mother when she asks for something. It is as though people assume that she has no cognitive functions, I cannot imagine how frustrating this must make my mother feel at times.
2. the disfigurement of the surgery
3. the amount of medication my mother has to take
4. the amazing battle and survival of four major operations - averaging around 7 hours each
5. the support from her family
6. my mother love of tea

This is what I have started to make. It is not quite finished as I have to make another part to complete the installation. I hope that this piece shows people how strong you can be, how amazing the human body is and how above all, if you have the love and support of some good people, how anything is possible.
The mask - this is the mask in it's raw state. My mother was screwed down to a table for ten minutes at a time wearing this whilst undergoing her  radiotherapy
Side view of the mask

Back view of the mask

I decided to collect the backs of my mother prescriptions and link these together to make a thread that I could weave with. I used these to weave the torso and face part of the mask. You can see snippets of the medication name, dosage, name etc as you look across the mask

The two side patches and two top head patches have been weaved with bright coloured thread, representing my mothers four children and the support that they offer.
The bright lights shining around

The medal denotes the dates of the four major operation my mother has undergone with the Blue mouth cancer ribbon hanging underneath

As a result of the operation my mother has to feed through a tube however one substance that my mother has been able to hang onto is her cup of tea. As a child I would buy scraps of fabric and old cloths from second hand markets and make toys, and objects out of then. I wanted the tea cup to reflect this activity - something that my mother encouraged.

The mouth is slightly to the side, denoting the disfigurement from the surgery with strands growing out from it. This is  "Lucifer" , which is the name my mother has given her tumour. The black line that goes around the face, mimics the scar that has been left from the surgery

All in all I have tried to make a piece that reflects some difficult issues but that also has a hidden beauty to it, a positive message and a sense of pride of how
incredibly brave my mother is.

At my husbands birthday I got to show my mother the progress of the mask. As you can imagine this was quite emotional, but I was just as pleased as I was shocked, when my mother picked the mask up and put it on.
This year my mother is taking part in the Race for Life for the third time. I cannot put into words how proud and inspired I am by her. Despite all of what she is going through she will be not only raising money but sharing in the hope, courage and inspiration of the thousands of people that will be taking part. Please take a moment and have a look at my mother's sponsor page, and if you can please donate, even if it can only be small amount. I know it would mean the world to my mother to know that she has raised money to support the fight against this awful disease. Thank you for taking the time to read this blog.


Sue Barnfield said...

What an emotional and moving story Lisa. You must be extremely proud of all your mum has achieved.

Jason said...

Amazing blog entry Lisa. Mum is a truelly amazing person when you consider what she has been through and she is a strength and inspiration to us all. I can understand the emotional response to seeing this art work as it captures what she has been through in a very graphic way. We will never fully understand or appreciate what she is going through or what it was like to be screwed down to a table wearing this mask. You've done a great job with the mask, but I find it hard to look at because of what it represents.