PROOF: Frances Bukovsky: Pathology
Chronically ill and disabled individuals are often asked to take on a burden of proof, whether to gain access to accommodations, treatments through insurance companies, or to satisfy a social demand to justify why someone is the way they are. – Frances Bukovsky
This week we are considering projects that all provide a form of proof. Each artist considers the idea from a different perspective.
After a recent surgery, I noted friend’s curiosity about the scars, more from the perspective that they needed proof or at least a visual of the event. In the case of Frances Bukovsky, she has no scars to use as a form of documentation, instead shes uses lumen prints to metaphorically describe and document her chronic illness and dynamic disability, in her project, Pathology. The unstable qualities of lumen printing echo the fluctuating and unpredictable symptoms a chronic illness, each image uniquely interpreted using a range of personal and medical ephemera.
Frances Bukovsky (b.1996 they/she) is a sick, disabled, queer person who makes fine art documentary photography about the intersection of those identities, their physical body, and their external relationships to people and environments. They were born and raised in rural upstate New York, left to earn a BFA with Honors from Ringling College of Art and Design, and are currently based between Stuart, Florida, and Cherry Valley, New York.
Bukovsky’s debut monograph, Vessel, was published in 2020 by Fifth Wheel Press. They have also been included in publications such as Archer Magazine’s Disability Issue, Soft Lightning Studio Vol.1 and 2, and Hazey published by Fifth Wheel Press. They have also been included in exhibitions such as Witness curated by Efrem Zelony-Mindell, Family Of curated by Jeff Dietz, and Pieces of Light shown at the Durham Arts Council in North Carolina.
Besides their photography work, Bukovsky was part of the founding member team of Life at Six Feet, a photography project born out of a need for artistic community in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic. They currently serve on the board of DIY-Abled, a disability education organization creating education about disability by disabled people.
Pathology reclaims my personal medical archives from the often traumatic circumstances in which they were made and reframes them using lumen printing. The unpredictability of printing directly on expired silver photo paper mirrors the unpredictability of chronic illness and dynamic disability while also obscuring the medical objects and images in a way that speaks to the lack of clarity testing often gives patients and medical professionals regarding a solution for symptoms.
Chronically ill and disabled individuals are often asked to take on a burden of proof, whether to gain access to accommodations, treatments through insurance companies, or to satisfy a social demand to justify why someone is the way they are. Pathology both entertains the idea of proving illness, and rejects it by exploring the nuances of medical records and the inability of a diagnosis or test result to capture the lived experience of a person. I am disregarding the privacy around my own medical archive in order to demonstrate the absurdity of demanding private medical information, particularly in the context of satisfying a stranger’s curiosity.
Besides taking on questions about privacy and chronic illness, these images aim to address “invisible” disability by going inside the body itself. The lumens that are a part of this on-going project are made from MRI images, medications, pathology reports, bodily fluids, and other medical ephemera that have collected in my life because of multiple chronic illnesses and my attempts to manage them. They address the complexity of navigating the healthcare system in America, from seeking financial assistance, to changing treatment plans, to managing multiple doctors. -Frances
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