I created the "Dreams in the Midst of a Nightmare" photo collage series while under chemotherapy and radiation treatment after a modified radical mastectomy for breast cancer. The cancer treatments are damaging to the body, mind, and soul. I was barely able to hold the paper lantern due to fatigue and peripheral neuropathy when I posed for the images. Nausea, vomiting, night terrors, neutropenic fever, metallic taste, severe acid reflux, pain from the surgery, and severe burns from the radiation made hair loss seem like a trivial event. "Chemo brain" added much distress and contributed in making this project a challenge. The emotional turmoil from loss of a body part and one's youthful vigor is difficult to fathom unless one has experienced it themselves. I chose to create even while I was sick so the year would not solely be about suffering.
Many of the components in the photo collages come from happier days, including ravens and landscape elements from camping in Death Valley, and a photo of ruins of an old chateaux in the Provence taken from the back of a moving motorcycle, and environmental imagery from other happy pre-cancer adventures. Juxtaposing my current fate with better times of the past was a bittersweet effort. I saw this project as a challenge to make create something meaningful from my suffering, while I longed for my old life back. I hope that as viewers contemplate this series, they will be inspired to support scientific research that seeks less damaging and more successful cures for cancer.
Meet the Raven
Friend or Foe
Commune with the Silver Swan
Dreaming of Raven Flight
Heaven Can Wait
A Visit with Guanyin
Training for Longevity
Kung fu training in modern times is for health and self-cultivation. Its lessons help the body and mind face life's challenges including illness. I was deathly ill when the photos of my poses were taken so even standing was a struggle. The combination of extreme fatigue and my right arm still having compromised range of motion from the mastectomy pushed me to use "internal energy" to strike traditionally external Northern Shaolin poses.
Five Flavored Tea of Forgetfulness
Join the Pink Warriors as they fight breast cancer. Support cancer research to prevent further suffering and deaths.
Small Elegant Butterflies
Although fortunate to be free from bound feet and having polygamist husbands as their grandmothers and great-grandmothers may have had, today's American-Chinese women have inherited a set of stereotypes that persist even in culturally diverse Silicon Valley.
Fictitious Claudio Hunter is a composite of real people who objectify Chinese women. His "Small Elegant Butterfly Specimen Box II and Killing Jar" is part a developing mixed media series called "Chinese Girlfriend Collection." Claudio successfully captured many Asian women for his "Small Elegant Butterfly Specimen Box II," but one small elegant butterfly manages to escape his abuse. The print "Transformation I" is the beginning of her healing journey as she begins to shed the stereotypes that she previously embodied.
"Small Elegant Butterfly" (雅蠛蝶, Yǎ Miè Dié in Chinese) is one of the Baidu 10 Mythical Creatures that originated in response to the online censorship in China. Ya Mie Die originates from the Japanese yamete (止めて), meaning "stop" in reference to stereotypes and rape.
Joie de Vivre
A change in perspective reveals new horizons. My aerial photography celebrates reconnecting to what is important in life as I strive to recover from cancer treatments.
The Magic of Ma-Ku
Ma-Ku (or "Ma-Gu") is the Chinese goddess of Spring who personifies the goodness of people. She is associated with myths of longevity and is a protector of women. The magic of Ma-Ku gives me hope as I continue to rebuild my life after completing a year of intense cancer treatments, adjust to the permanent damage from the treatments, and strive to prevent cancer recurrence and secondary cancers.