Phyllis McGibbon

TITLE: Survivor
DATE: 2011-12
MEDIUM: graphite
DESCRIPTION/STATEMENT: When asked to contribute a piece to the Ossuary project, I immediately thought of past studio discussions with Claudia Bernardi, a California based artist who worked with the Argentine Forensic Anthropology team to exhume mass graves in El Salvador, Guatemala, Argentina and Ethiopia. In the end, our bones may be all that can speak for us, and the tenderness with which Claudia and her collaborators listen to bones is deeply moving.

The invitation to make something for this project came not long after I had reason to confront my own mortality and was beginning to shift from being cancer patient to recognizing myself as a cancer survivor. This was the first extended drawing I made as the sense of touch returned to my fingertips, post-chemo. What kind of haptic knowledge survives in an artist’s hand over time? And how might the traces of one hand shape the creative potential of another? Working on this drawing brought to mind the legacy of UW drawing professor John Wilde, whose lessons still reverberate in the hands of his many students.

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