Erin Maurelli

Artist Statement

Central themes within my works revolve around the hypothesis that the body is the highest form of biotechnology, revealing to me the sublime fear and wonder of the human machine. Through this work, be it print, drawing, book, performance, video or installation, my viewer is asked to leave behind their preconceived definitions of womanhood and the body. This art is a combination of opposites; a mixture of the medically sterile and viscerally messy; flesh and machine; sensual and repulsive; weakness and strength; logic and emotion. Like a mad doctor, piecing together bits of flesh and machine to breathe life into my masterpieces; a representation of the body which is both captivating and revolting. Through this action, the beauty and pain of human experience is represented.

Using the phenomenon of lactation as an example of human mechanism, I explore the dichotomy held within the female breast; seeing past the seductive curve of the flesh to expose its inner workings. Applying the cool and calculated terms of science and industry to the body changes it from living being to specimen and the breast from sexually enticing to the sum of its function. Literal representations of machines signify bodily changes in preparation for mass assembly of milk. Antiquated technology conveys a feeling of weightiness; heavy labor, discomfort and awkwardness associated with nursing. This variation on breast feeding exemplifies the inner dispute most new mothers experience as they come to terms with their role as sole milk producer. Within this frame work, the breast, the body, become a vehicle for exploration into the human psyche.

Revisiting time spent nursing has allowed me to recontextualize the experience; placing distance between myself then and myself now. Breastfeeding is an all consuming activity which I now regard much differently than when I was involved in it. The inability to control the body is akin to a hostage situation where the drama of politics is played out upon the consciousness of the individual. Insisting that this was my choice, my gift, the reality is choice had little to do with the function the breasts have taken to performing. This perspective has allowed for new artistic parallels to be drawn between the body and its role in the advancement of medical technology and a fervent global political environment.

In modern culture the body is highly politicized. HIV/AIDS, stem cell research, cloning, and abortion are all hot-button issues making regular news headlines. Advancement in medical technologies can be helped or hindered depending on political climate and perceived need. With the return of innumerable war veterans, the development of prosthetics is taking center stage with neural interfaces and strong, flexible metal alloys. Bionics, nanotechnology, and human regeneration are no longer limited to science fiction. The future of my creative exploration lies in my ability to reveal the human allegory in these clinical advancements; going beyond gender and race to encompass humankind. Artist D.B. Dowd described this work as a “doorway into a wedge-shaped room that expands infinitely out to contain all matter of subject and content regarding the body and its functioning.” The door has been opened; the threshold crossed.