Liver Cancer Self Portrait with Life and Death
in the Segan Semui-in Mudra
Terra Cotta
20 H x 9" W x 9 D
2010
 
 
About the Piece
(click to view video)
 
During the past months of battling breast cancer metastasized to my liver, life and death have been my companions embodied here by Mary and a skeleton who flank me on each side.

All three figures stand with their arms in the Segan Semui-in mudra. Mudras, symbolic positions in which the hands are held in Hindu dancing and rituals, are common in Christian, Indian, and Buddhist art. The right hands of the three figures are in the Abhaya mudra: the Fear-Not mudra which shows good intentions, a sign of peace and a way of showing that you mean no harm because you carry no weapon in your hand. In the Buddhist tradition the Buddha made this gesture after attaining enlightenment. The left hands form the Varada mudra, or the welcome or Wish-Granting mudra which signifies compassion, sincerity and the wish to devote oneself to human salvation. Combined together, the Abhaya and Varada mudras structure the Segan Semui-in mudra.

In my left hand I hold a container to catch the ascitis fluid that collects in my abdomen and needs to be drained. In my right hand I hold the chemotherapy and herceptin that enters my body through a port that has been inserted into my chest. Fighting lymphedema, my left arm is wrapped in a compression garment.

A friend of mine who paints icons says that every figure gets a halo, even if they are not saints. Each of these figures has a halo which lifts them from prose to poetry and highlights the spiritual dimensions of the mundane.

Having a drain in my abdomen, undergoing long-term chemotherapy, and numerous hospital stays, l strive to understand the gifts that Life and Death afford me.