Jeffery Keough, Director of Exhibitions,
Massachusetts College of Art
I thought the work and the subject of disease were both understandably disturbing and yet compelling. I especially thought the use of light was very effective as well as the method of taking often hidden images and making them visible.
The one aspect of the work, which gave me pause was my confusion on where his experiences as the doctor and those of the patient began and ended. Of course, these borders are not often clearly defined when it comes to highly charged conditions involving compassion and empathy. This aspect is perhaps shadowed in the treatment (pardon the pun) of the subject in the work
Massachusetts College of Art
Paul Parcellin, Art Critique,
Art in New England.
Jaime Belkind-Gerson: Expressions from Within
Castignetti Building, Boston, MA
The atmosphere of Jaime Belkind-Gerson’s studio installation is both surreal and disquieting. Soft music plays in the background, setting the mood for a kind of hypnotic trance the viewer will undoubtedly begin to experience. The soft piano music sets a somber tone. It could be a memorial service we’re entering, but instead it more resembles a hospital room or lab.
Once inside, there are implements of the medical profession all around: intravenous bags positioned on metal stands, petri dishes a magnifying glass mounted on a light table. In the far end of the room, a row of candles illuminates and altar-like construction.
The appearance of medical devices and the like should come as no surprise – the artist is also a physician. But these petri dishes and intravenous devices are like none seen in any ordinary hospital.
On the wall is a series of paintings inspired by the artist’s observations as a doctor: they’re colorful abstractions based on slides of human cells viewed under the microscope.
Upon closer inspection, the petri dishes and intravenous devices are imbedded with translucent photographic images as well as foreign matter. The artist has filled the reservoir of the intravenous bags and the petri dishes with clear polyester resin and imbedded transparent images onto the resin.
On a makeshift platform that seems to represent a hospital bed, a pillow cast from clear polyester resin sits at the end of the bed. Light shining through the pillow from underneath helps illuminate a photograph of the artist, dressed in a hospital gown and looking ashen, that is embedded in the hardened resin.
The image is slightly eerie as well as touching. The artist as physician seems to be allowing himself to be more vulnerable than the starched-white protocol of medicine as it is practiced in many Western hospitals, would allow. In this instance, the physician casting himself in the role of the patient, a role that’s more uncomfortably dependent than most physicians would willingly assume.
Inside the petri dishes are the organs of laboratory mice, also suspended in hardened resin. Colored jells seem to float within the resin, tinting the rodent organs and forming colorful, offbeat patterns. The artist seems to be forcing the viewer to face the entrails of these once-living organisms whose loves are routinely sacrificed in the name of research. Overall, the installation seems to reflect on the ironies of science that places saving human life as its greatest priority, yet at time sit is straining to maintain its non-clinical, humanistic side.
When observing “Expressions from Within” it’s difficult to ignore the commodification of medicine, both as a consumer product and the way that doctors treat body parts as individual commodities unto themselves. As the artist knows, medicine can be all too impersonal –-perhaps that’s a necessary psychological distancing device physicians use to deal with the rigors and responsibilities of medicine. But in his role as an artist, that is a line that Belkind-Gerson the physician is unafraid to cross.
Art Critic, Art in New England