Maureyn BreesWhen I saw the torso cast I was struck by its small size, uneven form of protuberances, raw surface and its vulnerability. I decided to respect those marks and prickles of plaster, work and play with them, using minimal collaged material and let skins of paint stretch the reality of the moment.

“Life’s Illusions” explores the surface tension between the plaster and emerging imagery.

I remember the day a torso cast surrounded my body. I was 18. Three of us were present on the back veranda. My mother was supporting my body as I sat on a kitchen chair. To hold my spine straight, a leather strap was placed under my chin and supporting slings and ropes went up and over the old wooden rafter above. My physio, Miss Kelsall, was deftly throwing wet plaster around my body. I was trusting in the process.

It was an auspicious day. Having spent the previous two years lying prone, strapped in a double Thomas splint in bed and in a long wicker pram with no prospect of walking using callipers and crutches because of full paralysis of lower limbs, and stomach, back, shoulder and arm weaknesses, this cast was the beginning of a process that would enable me to sit in a wheelchair for the rest of my life. I was optimistic about the future. But I had no idea the day’s activity would help me later to work full time for 12 years, marry and help care for a family of four step children for 15 years, then at aged 50 begin a decade of wheeling across campuses exploring ideas of philosophy and art.

The leg has a history, it’s been places and it has places to go. It’s a risk taker. A cast hides the real leg and its hopes and dreams. I remember having leg casts made, but the wearing of them has become blended and blurred with later leg injuries: impact trauma, sprains, burns, a skin graft and a fracture. Some have been caused by falls, but not all. All are probably related to the late effects of polio, ageing and possibly risk taking while seated. It’s amazing how much damage a paralysed leg can do to itself!

My interest in the wearing of a leg cast is that it often evokes the question: What happened? When the answer is polio related it has become a never ending story.

“Said Leg” graphically dresses the limb on its journey and allows the leg to talk the walk by mirror imaging text.

By the late 80’s, post polio issues meant I had to rethink my art practice. I adapted my energies to sound performance and writing, even managing a solo trip to Northern Ireland in 1994 recording a train journey to bring back as a Post Polio Pilgrim sound/voice performance.

For the past ten years focus has been on the practice of writing and a once a year small collage. Being alert and exploring the surface of things before taking action is the ongoing challenge of surviving in this post polio life, but like many other artists my aim also is to keep the creative life alive, to thrive.

In this year of 2013 the “Touched by Polio” project allows me a fresh journey. I’m surprised and delighted I’ve been able to participate. It’s a great pleasure to contribute to the exhibition.

Please click on a picture below to see more photographs and a video of each of Maureyn’s “Touched by Polio” art works