My altered x-ray series is a complex and continually evolving body of work that I began in the early nineties in response to the AIDS epidemic. Using the exposed x-ray films of men who had died of AIDS, I intervened with chemicals and paint, burns and cuts. At times, I transformed the image of the diseased part. At times, my interventions were an intuitive response to the disease and the devastation it was causing, and paralleled the deterioration and decay of the body.
Although the anonymity of disease and alienating medical technology do not surrender so easily to the interventions of artmaking, my early altered x-rays provided me with a way of processing loss. They serve as elegies of those passed and act as reminders of our own vulnerability and mortality. As works of art they possess a horrific beauty and perhaps they retrieve some individuality from the anonymity of death and disease.
In the late nineties, I began to include the films of strangers, friends, and colleagues diagnosed with a wide variety of disorders. Many ailments and conditions are represented by newer imaging techniques. I interrupt both the scientific measuring and the represented image with paint, cuts, eradicated zones, and snippets from popular culture. I embed images of ancient architecture taken from discarded, deteriorating books. These re-contextualized bits act as interferences that sabotage the scientific status of the x-ray, sonogram, and magnetic resonance films and impart a sense of unfinishedness. Many of these additions refer to unseen and overlooked places, events, and objects. Their inclusion reflects the quotidian aspects of my personal and social engagements. Collapsing the distance between the technologized (alienated) realm of medical practice and the transcendent domain of pictorial beauty, I am “altering” the deadly empiricism of medical diagnosis as I am also refusing to accept a fully sublimated escape into art. In disrupting the intent of the films and their nearly impervious surfaces, a sense of certainty is supplanted with ambivalence, experimentation, and the transitory. As answers recede, questions come to the fore.