Chronic pain ignites ceramic sculptures
By Atiba Nelson, Staff Reporter
Juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) is a medical condition that causes swelling in the joints of kids and teens. The joint inflammation is coupled with joint pain and can led to destructive changes in the joint spontaneously starting in early life.
Since the disease starts in childhood, individuals diagnosed with the autoimmune condition experience chronic pain for many years—even with prescriptions of pain medications.
Pain—once thought of as the fifth vital sign—is a difficult experience to quantify or relay to a health provider, as measures such as a numeric rating scale, which is a measurement of a patient’s pain from 0 (no pain) to 10 (the most pain ever felt), are subjective. Unlike blood pressure or heart rate, pain especially when numbers increase is often misunderstood.
Chronic pain is even worse—imagine stubbing a toe but the pain never subsides. How would you handle that?
Otto Kamensek channelled more than four decades of living with JIA and chronic pain into ceramic art that visually depicts his experiences.
“I want to give a deeper understanding of what it may be like to live with [a chronic disease and pain],” said Kamensek in a statement given to Douglas College.
After retiring from work, Kamensek restarted an exploration of visual art, while also splitting his free time as a volunteer at the Arthritis Research Centre (ARC) of Canada. His volunteering gave him a greater understanding of his situation and allowed for the exploration of a new form of arthritis advocacy, according to the displayed Artist’s Statement.
Kamensek’s work materialized into several ceramic sculptures that comprise the “Shards, Bone Deep” exhibit now on display at the Amelia Douglas Gallery from March 5 to April 18.
The exhibit features pieces intended to portray health experiences into art. For example, the most prominently display piece a sculpted left foot with the majority of the toes slanting to the right, and the second toe sitting on top of the big toe—a common feature of metatarsal joints affected by JIA.
Kamensek spent a year as the artist-in-residence at the Port Moody Art Centre to explore his creativity, and most of the sculptures from that time are currently living in the Douglas Gallery.
“We’re honoured to be able to share this exhibit with our community. His work provides a glimpse into the physical agony experienced by someone with a chronic illness on a daily basis,” said Krista Graham, Performing Arts Assistant and Arts Events Officer at Douglas College.