Design Statement: We selected this visualization of “Textiles and Textures in Teaching the Sources of Toxicity” for the following reasons:
Melhorn-Boe’s early work on gender has attracted critical commentary that uses “thick description” to detail the tactile encounter with her work (Hyland 1999). In contrast, her toxic teachings have been less quick to sell. She speaks of audiences feeling unhappy when they encounter her stories of environmental risk. Though her table-top treasure boxes, origami-ed landscapes, and mash-ups of the quilt and the pop-up book cry out to be touched, they also record how we are contaminated and in constant contact consciously or unconsciously with EDCs. The lay public wishes to keep the knowledge that these works deliver about the risks of living in (post)industrial ecologies at a (psychic if not literal) distance. There is a crossing of media where something first-hand is lost in the re-presentation. That distance is like the distance between the individual with an EI and the one who has not yet been felled by one.
There is both the indexical trace of the person who is sick (as in the plaster cast of Melhorn-Boe’s face) and the lack of that indexical trace in these selected works (the plaster cast was taken of the artist’s face before her cancer and EI; she recycled the materials in accordance with what she has been able to do while living with a disability AND in keeping with her more recent fixation on garbage and recycling).
There is something soft, virtuous and virtuosic in these pieces that might offer solace against the ominous lists of chemicals/EDCs that are listed in scientific literature and documentation (e.g., the Global Assessment of State-of-the-Science on Endocrine Disruptors). Rather than simply raise the alarm about sources of contamination, Melhorn-Boe quilts, sews, and folds stories of living in non-purity, in contaminated and disabled canary being into missives (books, boxes, and aprons) of tactile communion.