This recently completed series of 5 mixed media paintings on my hip replacement was featured in the Spring 2021 Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine.
Here’s a bit of background on that series of paintings:
In 2009, I had a paddling accident on the ocean where my left hip was partially dislocated, which caused traumatic arthritis in the joint. Unfortunately, in the years following the accident, I also suffered several severe bouts of pneumonia, which necessarily became the focus of my recovery. I limped on the leg throughout this time and caused further problems in my left knee and foot.
In more recent years, I have been able to address these injuries in a series of surgeries on my left leg, culminating with a full hip replacement in December 2019, and have fully recovered to pre-accident health. During post-surgery rehab in 2020, I started this series of 5 paintings to depict what the journey was like for me from constant daily pain to a full recovery.
Tell Me How It Ends
The first painting in this series depicts the pain I was feeling during the years I lived with traumatic arthritis. The pain felt like a rod being jammed into my hip joint with every step. The joint was unstable and the groin felt like it was being pulled apart. In the painting, the small dots circle the spot in my body where I felt the pain originating. I used glazes in many of the paints to thin them seeking to make an image of a body not all there because the constant pain made me feel only half alive during that time.
Hammer to Marrow
Just before surgery, I awoke to see the large and quite intimidating looking machine that would dislocate my hip joint for the surgery team to replace it. It was a fleeting semi-conscious sight but made an impression on me! I chose neon colors and dynamic splashes of fluid paint in this painting to capture what I imagined was the impact of that machine on my body to complete this hip replacement. I wanted the viewer to practically hear the impact in this image.
This painting is the most monochromatic of the series and captures the time during recovery when I was free of pain but not yet able to use the joint fully. I wanted to create a calm visual for the sheer relief that came from the absence of that constant joint pain. It was a time of peace and hope.
For All There Is To Give, I Offer
In this painting, I focused on the vulnerable body parts that remain near the mechanical ball of my new hip joint (painted in matte silver to the right side of the painting), showing the stress of connection and the fading of cells floating around this bodily landscape. This was the time I was returning to athletic endeavors and realizing the hard work ahead of me for a full recovery, but also the possibility.
The Exact Temperature of Life
This painting depicts the tip of the carbon fiber as it sits within the human tissue surrounding it. While in reality, the carbon fiber joint is metallic, here I depicted it as gloss red, as if it is the source of life for the tissue that surrounds it (which it is, given how the new joint has returned me to all my pre-accident athletic activity). I wanted to finish the series with a painting that showed stability and the colors of life, with still a touch of the innate vulnerability that comes from life in a human body.
This sequence of mixed media paintings was created with acrylic paint, oil pastel, watercolor paint, and pencil in 2020 and 2021.