Body is a Bridge details the lived experiences of illness through an intersectional lens. Images of Amber Shields’s grandmother, Johanne, span 15 years, marking examples of her strength and defiance from the expected norms of the traditional female. Images unravel the “American dream” through depicting visits to relatives’ grave sites, stints in nursing homes for broken bones, breast cancer, and physical and mental battles with mortality. Images of riel Sturchio’s twin sister, Bianca, span 6 years, showcasing shared moments, challenges with cerebral palsy, and bodily trauma alongside issues with self-harm, body dysmorphia.
Though vastly different in their presentations, the two narratives share similar implications. Bianca’s narrative is that of a twenty-something-year-old who faces the daily reality of her body being an object of scrutiny for the public eye due to the visibility of her cerebral palsy and scoliosis. Beyond the physical manifestation of her visible non-normative body, she holds no obvious appearance of sickness or ill health. Images of Johanne show signs of frailty, age, and holds an outward appearance of sickness and age. The social response to these bodies is different. However, each circumstance comes with its own set of social and physical barriers that are a direct result of these individuals experiences with disability and illness. Together, images touch on themes of identity, gender politics, battles with disease, and dangerous coping mechanisms. Both bodies of work span from the daily routines of vibrant, self-sufficient individuals, to difficult realities within the challenges of both visible and invisible ailments and offer a generous, affectionate, and authentic appreciation for access into these worlds.
Amber Shields is based in Texas. She has a BA in Photojournalism from Loyola University in New Orleans and a MFA in Photography from San Jose State University in California. Since 2001, Amber has been working on long-term personal projects about her aging grandmother from Oklahoma and life in middle America. Her work has been exhibited internationally including in the L. Nowlin Gallery, The Knockdown Center, RayKo Gallery, Art + Commerce Festival of Emerging Photographers, PS122 Gallery curated by Allen Frame, and various publications including Vice magazine, FlakPhoto, LightWork, Lenscratch and Conscientious websites. In 2010, Amber was selected to participate in Review Santa Fe.
riel Sturchio lives and works in Portland, Maine and Austin, Texas. She received her BFA in Photography and Art History at Maine College of Art (2012) and is pursuing an MFA in Studio Art at The University of Texas at Austin (2018). She has been included in many publications such as online magazines Dazed Digital, Positive, Fotographia, Bleek, Streit House Space, Ain’t Bad, F-Stop, and others. Work for her ongoing series (Chasing Light), from which these images derive, has been generously supported by the Maine Arts Commission, the Kittredge Fund, and The Alexia Foundation.
Bianca Sturchio (Collaborator) is a disabled artist living in Portland, Maine. She is also a student of Social Work and Gender Studies at the University Of Southern Maine in Portland. Sturchio bridges her academic knowledge and lived experiences of mental illness and cerebral palsy to create mixed media pieces that help her investigate and share her intersecting markers of identity. She wishes to create bodies of work that help cultivate conversation around disability and mental illness with the purpose of self-directed exposure, stigma-reduction and expression of these interconnected realities. Successes include a residency at the Byrdcliffe Artist Colony in Woodstock, New York (2015).