Behind the Diagnosis


Behind the Diagnosis was selected for twentyONE+ exhibition, currently showing at Spectrum Project Space

H – 12, W – 49, D – 40

Materials: upholstery fabric samples, stainless steel wire, nickel plated beads.

Techniques: hand cut circles threaded onto wire in stripes and arranged to represent Chromosomes in free form.

A Karyotype showing 3 pairs of #21 Chromosomes gives a diagnosis of Trisomy 21 Down Syndrome. This work, showing those same Chromosomes in a free state, represents the person behind the diagnosis; their uniqueness, layers and complexity, likes and dislikes, hopes, dreams and passionate love of life._DSC3300LWellsDetail3

This Work: ‘Behind the Diagnosis’

This series of work began in response to my frustrating experience applying for a disability support pension for my 16 year old son who has Down Syndrome, which involved an arduous series of steps over 5 months, through a system which is incompetent and lacking in compassion. This made me more determined to fight for recognition of him as a human being.

The basis of the work is the Karyotype of the Chromosomes; the scanned image of this shown to me at his birth, I kept going back to in my mind. (A set of the 23 chromosome pairs are laid out in numerical order. If there are three instead of two pairs of number 21 chromosome, this leads to a diagnosis of Trisomy 21 – Down Syndrome).

I was inspired by Karyotype images where striped diagrams of black and white lines appear in pairs of varying set lengths. I first made a standard Down Syndrome Karyotype cut from my jeans, and my husband’s business shirts, then sets with discarded upholstery fabric samples. The beauty, high contrast and the delicacy of each layer helped me to focus on the complexity, uniqueness and personality rather than the cold clinical profile. The slow process of hand cutting the circles assisted my healing. These individual chromosomes were then threaded onto wire and coiled basket-like, looped and woven to show a cheeky personality, a passion for life, hopes and dreams, all the truly human aspects of the person, rather than just a clinical profile.LWellsDetail1

4 thoughts on “Behind the Diagnosis

  1. This is a beautiful, rich piece, Louise. When you gave your artist talk at Spectrum las Saturday I doubt there was a dry eye in the room as viewers heard what lay behind it. More significantly perhaps, there were several others in the audience who were able to relate to your frustration with the Centrelink process. We have gone WAYYYY too far with the negative approach to fraud avoidance and cause real pain to real people. To add to that pain, the caretaker government announced yesterday that there would be yet another “crackdown on social security fraud”. It’s become a mantra that I reckon should be denounced as an ugly smear against all who need help, alongside race and religious intolerance.

  2. Love this piece, especially the agonising process that became the impetus for your creativity, if I may say. But on the other hand, Louise, you have clearly demonstrated that those agonising processes were all but transient – ” suffering is optional” – you have turned the supposed negativity into some great positive, creative energy that has brought you to yet another level. Well done again!
    By the way, forgot to mention that I spotted your 16 year old in the opening night, blending in with the crowd and the noise. What a fine young man he is!

  3. Oh Louise – I love your work and the meaning behind it is close to my heart – I feel your pain as I deal with those agencies in existence to assist people with disabilities too (our son’s disability doesn’t have a recognisable name so it is a little harder to make people understand)- it is frustrating beyond words and mentally exhausting. We must keep plugging away though to try and raise awareness. x

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