Monday, July 20, 2015

Shirley Klinghoffer


Cancer Survivor Art at Museum of Glass 

Published in the Weekly Volcano, July 16, 2015
Shirley Klinghoffer, “CRT Revisited, 2015,” slumped glass installation. Photo by Duncan Price.
Artist Shirley Klinghoffer is a cancer survivor; she has used her own and others’ experience with this deadly disease to create haunting and touching works of art now on display at the Museum of Glass.
Her large-scale installation pieces are inspired by hospital armatures used as support for women’s bodies during radiation therapy. Alongside one wall and extending outward like a thrust stage in a theater are platforms upon which lie transparent glass shapes barely recognizable as casts from the torsos of women who have undergone radiation therapy. They are disturbing yet beautiful, delicate yet powerful.
Klinghoffer writes, “Discovering beauty in ugly truths is a challenge.”
That is the challenge of her art.
On the wall above these clear glass body forms, written statements from and about cancer patients are projected. Similarly, against one wall is a bulletin board with statements written by cancer survivors and/or their doctors, family members, caregivers and museum visitors. Next to this bulletin board sits a desk with writing supplies. There are no instructions, but apparently anyone who wants to write something to be added to the bulletin board may do so.
On yet another wall is a line of the armatures. They look like woman-shaped life preservers that have been beaten and torn and repaired with masking and duct tape and hunks of foam. They are rough, gray in color, and horrible in their associations. They look like implements of torture. Even though the women whose bodies these armatures supported may now be cancer free, one gets the impression when looking at these that they must not have survived.
"Going through cancer treatment has so many challenges, but somehow along the way we connect with special people and certain objects that become truly meaningful in sustaining us through our journey and become healing objects," Klinghoffer wrote. The exhibition includes a mixed-media wall sculpture of her personal healing object. It is called “Witty in Pink.” It is a sculpture that looks like a flower. It is pink. The center is a large ball with many little nipples on it. The petals are made of vintage tulle. Like the other works, it is simultaneously strong and delicate. Interestingly, she chose the color pink as a symbolic color before pink came to be associated with cancer.
On display along a back wall in the museum’s lobby area is “Vanity,” a mixed-media installation by Joseph Rossano that deals creatively and memorably with the extinction of certain animal species. I would rather not describe these works but would prefer encouraging visitors to the museum to view the work for themselves and be surprised as I was. Rossano’s piece is beautiful and thought-provoking. Be prepared to take some time with it; it is worth the effort.
Shirley Klinghoffer, Museum of Glass, Wednesday-Saturday, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Thursday 10 a.m. to 8 p.m., Sunday, noon to 5 p.m., through Oct. 11, admission $5-$15, free to members, free Third Thursday, Museum of Glass, 1801 Dock St. Tacoma, (866) 468-7386]

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