Pelenakeke Brown

Pelenakeke Brown is an interdisciplinary Samoan/Pākehā artist. Her practice spans visual art, writing, and performance. The prints of grasp + release, two of which are shown here, were created after she received her medical file in 2018. Brown describes these works as “fragments of [her] excavation process.” She says, “Requesting this information about myself felt subversive. I created dance scores from my file to access the text. Break into it. Take ownership of its words. Words which were mostly foreign, cold medical terms with occasional surprising glimpses of the humans involved, the little girl and her (my) beautiful mother and the difficult journey she had.” Interventions to alleviate, or cure, disabilities are common, sometimes necessary and helpful, but sometimes harmful. In grasp + release Brown reclaims both her body and the texts written about her body. The images shown here are two of the series.

A print by the artist Pelenakeke Brown entitled HER RETURN
A print by the artist Pelenakeke Brown entitled SHE REVEALED
Pelenakeke Brown, prints from grasp + release, 2019. Courtesy of the artist. Two images of the prints by the artist Pelenakeke Brown titled ”her return” and “she revealed." In “her return,” we see black text, written on a white page in lower case typewriter style font. The title written at the top of the page in the center, and taking up the bottom two thirds of the page, a paragraph of text that has been blackened in black marker making the majority of the text underneath it illegible. Five words have been selected from different points within the paragraph and left unmarked. Together they form a new sentence that reads: “Her return is to speak.” In “she revealed” we see in the same style of font, the title written at the top of the page in the center, and on the lower half of the page, a large paragraph of text that has been again blackened in black marker. Several words have been selected at different places within the paragraph, and together, they form new sentences: “she displayed marked preference left grasp would hold. extend hold flexed wrist. quite unusual not bringing left arm it was resistance. Her resistance revealed.”

About This Site

A Picture of Health: Jo Spence, a Politics of Disability and Illness is a multi-pronged project curated by Kenny Fries and Elisabeth Frost.

In 1986 the British artist, educator, and activist Jo Spence (1934-1992) described the question fundamental to her work: “how to represent a body in crisis.” Spence’s work reveals powerful political and artistic responses to the experience of inhabiting such a body and is as timely as ever. This website places her work in the context of the lived experience of chronic illness and of contemporary Disability Arts.

The Artists

Links to artists, with an image representing each artist that is explored in further detail on the artist's page.