ABOUT THE COLLABORATION
In the fall of 2016, I began to work on a wall installation for my thesis showcase. The process started with a simple shape that would repeat across the wall. While drawing the plans for the installation, I realized the top surfaces correlated with the motion of breath: concaving inward = deflated, bulging outward = inflated, and level = flat-lined. These shapes became objects. These objects became lungs.
At the same time that I was working on the installation and becoming more familiar with these objects, a friend of mine, Brad Dell, was beginning the process to receive a lung transplant. I realized that my fixation on lungs began the same time Brad started his road to recovery. Throughout his Cystic Fibrosis and transplant journey Brad kept family and friends updated via Facebook. I was so inspired by his outlook, courage, positivity, and humor through the whole journey. Brad is an amazing writer, and had started blogging about his journey. I wanted to include some of his prose with the installation, so I reached out to see if he would write a response. He was thrilled with the idea of collaborating.
"I based it off what I saw in your art: breathing into a clean slate. Like the edges look a bit diseased (not in an ugly way, I just don't know how else to put it), which reminded me of how my old lungs looked. Then the center is clean and fresh. There's 'motion' in your art that really does make me think of breathing -- I love it."
To the right you will find “Our Breath” in it’s entirety.
Check out Brad's blog post about the collaboration here.
OUR BREATH BY BRAD DELL
His last exhalation led to our first inhalation: the collective breath of two men who never met, yet now share an identity.
After 23 years of fighting cystic fibrosis and a slew of infections, my rotted, scarred lungs were ripped from beneath my ribs. In that void, his lungs — full-bodied and unscathed — were delicately placed.
It’s easy to think of lungs as organs and nothing else — if you’re not the one losing and receiving them. In the transplant community, there is a mythology of sorts that organs carry their identities with them, transferring the appetites and skills of the donor to the recipient. We are encouraged to see the organs as both a gift and a responsibility. I now carry the lungs that gave a man his first and last laughter, first and last gasps of surprise, first and last heaves of pain, first and last words. The lungs should be treated with respect; they are not mine, they are ours. We will have many firsts and lasts together, breath by breath.
I don’t know my lung donor’s story, or even his name. But when enduring struggles or celebrating joys, I’m doing it for the both of us. His death led to our life, a clean slate, and it will not be wasted.