Darian Goldin Stahl, Underlying Traces
“Underlying Traces” works to merge the medical and domestic bodily realms to better reflect the realities of living with chronic illness. The brain scans depicted here belong to my sister, Devan Stahl, who is a bioethicist and has multiple sclerosis. I chose this particular scan for its introspective appearance as the viewer turns the page. The eyes peer into themselves as they reflect back the past or potential future effects of a chronic and progressive disease.
To create this book, I begin by laser etching the hospital gown pattern with varying degrees of severity into swatches of silk. Next, I dip the silk into beeswax—a process that imbues the fabric with a translucent and eerie skin-like quality. I then burnish a print of the brain into the surface of the wax using an encaustic toner transfer technique that I developed. The transubstantiated material is then stretched within an embroidery hoop, which accomplishes the dual purpose of framing the page and recalling traditional women’s work. The inner hoop has been stained red to reference the visceral body, while the outer hoop has been coated in raw beeswax to give it the appearance of flesh. The text is transferred into the margins of the outer hoop using the same encaustic transfer method. Finally, the pages are bound using a braided wire to denote hair and further embody this portrait. By externalizing the lived experiences of disease into a readable and sharable object, an empathetic exchange can occur that combats the isolating and marginalizing effects of illness.