Wax Ear & Brass Nose

Beautiful, chained but now free. That's the Aesha I made art for.

Beautiful, chained but now free. That’s that the Aesha I made art for.

Part of an installation concerning Aesha Mohammadzai

Part of an installation concerning Aesha Mohammadzai


As you can read on the image from yesterday’s post, Afghani woman Aesha Mohammadzai had her nose and ears cut off by her father-in-law after she was released from a Taliban jail. She spent five months there because she wanted to leave her husband. This installation was created for a masters thesis at Kean University. There are five 10 x 13 inch sheets of Chinese hemp paper I made from hemp Jim Croft had cooked with wood ash and water in a large cauldron outside his Idaho home. At that time neither of us knew where the pulp we processed would end up. The hemp fiber was sun dried for a week and my portion came back east where it was beat at Women’s Studio Workshop in Rosendale New York the following March. I pressed the sheets there and took them home to New Jersey. It wasn’t until after I cast a brass nose in Jen Crupi’s metals studio at Kean University and made a wax cast of my ear (that’s how the nose was made; through lost wax process poured with ancient brass in a centrifuge machine. The mold was made from dental putty.) to accompany it that the project began to evolve. I wanted to cast a nose ever since I saw a post by Dr. Lindsey Fitzharris otherwise known on Twitter as @ChirurgeonsAppr on her website: http://thechirurgeonsapprentice.com/2013/02/14/syphilis-a-love-story/. My interest in medical history merged with trauma and connection.
The final result of hanging hemp paper referenced Most Wanted posters as well as the Shroud of Turin. I wanted a kind of shrine for Aesha since her bravery is astounding. I printed an image of her face sans nose in gray ink through an intaglio method. I rusted iron nails over 9 months and used them in five perforated holes to hang across the wall where the book stood on a pedestal. The text and images in the resulting book were also photo intaglio. These were the processes available to me so that is what I used. Within the book are comments she made in various newspaper articles. After a long and painful process, Aesha recieved a new nose that was created through intensive constructive surgery. Her most powerful message was, “I want to tell all women who are suffering abuse to be strong. Never give up and don’t lose hope.” Parts of the story can read here: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2323274/Aesha-Mohammadzai-Fearless-Time-cover-girl-Aesha-just-MONTHS-away-getting-new-nose-mutilated-Taliban-husband.html and here: https://uk.news.yahoo.com/bibi-aisha-afghanistan-woman-nose-and-ears-cut-off-reconstructive-surgery-102835830.html#3csOLXE (Note: This is not for the sqeamish).
The wonder of the Internet is that all of these seemingly diverse connections can converge to make a statement that draws them together in passion, compassion and the creative spirit. Perhaps Aesha received so much attention because she is beautiful. Many of the women on the page I mentioned in an earlier post were not. Sometimes this is how people are drawn into a heinous scenario. I made the artwork luxurious to get people to look at it. Once they were in, the fearful reality of the pieces made itself known. Fold out pages allowed viewers to write their reactions. It is marvelous to see the comments multiply over time. If at least one person gave thought to what I presented, then my act of art was successful.
Viewers responded to the art within the art book itself becoming part of the piece.

Viewers responded to the art within the art book itself becoming part of the piece.

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