You Cannot Feel it... I Wish That You Could
This work explores the interplay between biology and society. I pose two questions: To what degree are gender-specific roles biologically determined? And what happens to those roles as both society and biology evolve? The ideas arose in a very personal context; during my pregnancy, and afterwards when I was nursing our daughter, I noticed how curious my husband was about my experiences. More than once he pressed Shammiel against his own nipple to see if she would suckle. I wanted to create a piece around motherhood, and the unbridgeable gulf between the male and female bodies, specifically in the area of reproduction. Then I began to imagine ways in which that gulf might be bridged. Central to this work is the concept of male pregnancy. Given recent startling developments in our understanding of genetics and medicine, we may soon see a future in which women and men will both have the opportunity to carry a pregnancy. This shift would have not only enormous biological ramifications, but would also motivate a reexamination, if not total upheaval, of deep-rooted social conventions. In "You Cannot Feel It...," I fantasize what such a world might be like. Viewers move through the installation along a spiral path, guided by hanging transparent fabric. Within the space, people encounter "clones" of a new kind of human body: Eleven handmade paper sculptures of a pregnant female torso onto which are spliced eleven identical male heads. These sculptures were cast from a mold of my body, taken the week before I gave birth to Shammiel, now ten years ago. The floor beneath and around the sculptures is covered with soft, pale sand, evoking the idea of the earth as a foundation for biological manipulation. As they walk, viewers are able to feel the texture underfoot. I had the opportunity to collaborate with lighting designer Steve Dubay and composer Meshell Ndegeocello, who created a piece of music specifically for the installation. The lighting and the music will reinforce the magical quality that many of us feel when confronted with the wonder and fantasy of science.