Last night I went to a non-academic lecture on the late Lisa Bufano and the artwork she made. It was really interesting and I highly recommend people look her up. Some of her work can be found on youtube and there’s a show going on until Sunday in Oshawa.
The lecture was more or less a friend and collaborator talking in depth about her work. He explained that when she was 21 she developed a staph infection and overnight she went from being an exotic dancer, relying on her abled-body as a primary source of income to becoming a bilateral below-the-knee and total finger-thumb amputee, relying on a broken medical system for support. Her friend told a story about the first time she unwrapped the bandages from her hands, against her doctors orders and she described what she saw as five opened mouths, which she would later turn into a performance piece with the same name.
She is quoted as saying
Despite my own terror and discomfort in being watched (or, maybe, because of it), I am finding that being in front of viewers as a performer with deformity can produce a magnetic tension that could be developed into strength. I attempt to channel this tension by exaggerating the mode of physical difference (for example, presenting myself on stilts).