Brooke NaeCole Craig’s art practice focuses on identity through the lens of disease. She explores creating a new photographic and painterly narrative through experimental scientific processes.
Her amazing story and circumstances is an inspiration to any artist and creative individual, who look beyond their limitations to turn their weaknesses to strengths. After waking up paralyzed at age 11, Craig was diagnosed with a rare neurological/ autoimmune disorder, beginning her journey with disease. During impatient treatment, she was introduced to art as a way of coping with her external and internal struggles. This led to a life-long practice using art as a way of understanding and coping with the diseased body.
Craig's art is about bringing uncomfortable feelings associated with disease and mortality to the forefront. She believes that when you are constantly bombarded with disease or images of disease, you start to question your own physicality. The body just becomes the body. You start to see yourself as mechanical.
"I am more interested in making my audience think of the questions that those with disease face every day"
Craig perceives photographs more as objects rather then a media to capture time.
BNC: "I started thinking about the photograph as an object during undergrad. I kept using images of my body to explain a concept, but it was going no where. So, I stopped seeing the images as images and started thinking about them as structures that could be manipulated. I took film that displayed my body and started mixing my own medications into the developing process. I also included chemicals with the same pH of the internal processes that release the medication. Through this, I started seeing the film as an actual surrogate for my body. Film became my body displaying the physical marks of my disease. This later led way to painting on the emulsion of the film with my medications to gain more control. Since this work, I have seen everything I do as an extension of my own body."
In some of her paintings Craig uses bodily fluids and scientific models. For example, she became obsessed with knowing all internal processes of her body, so she started testing her pH every day. At first the work was performance based, but later she started thinking about the abject and the ability to disgust while throwing the viewer's own mortality in their face. She started creating massive pH paintings using her own urine. The paintings reflect abstract expressionism and are alluring until you read the small label describing their material. In other works, she used the decomposing body of a bird on chromatic paper to create abstract paintings. To create this work, she researched decomposition and the pH levels in the body at each stage. Different pHs create different colors on the paper. So these abstract paintings were meant to make the viewer understand the physicality of their being.
Based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Craig is very involved in the local art scene.
BNC: "The art scene here is definitely up and coming. Several people I went to undergrad with have opened galleries and contemporary spaces. The city loves very particular art and often times overlooks amazing local artists, but it is starting to change now. I cannot wait to see what the future brings to this amazing city."
Currently Craig is working on several projects.
BNC: "Recently, I have been diagnosed with Dysautonomia. Basically my autonomic nervous system is confused and no longer knows how to regulate processes like heart rate, orthostatic blood pressure, pupil dilation, and even hunger. Along with a lot of medication, I had to increase my sodium to 10 times the normal recommended intake in order to stay conscious. As a joke at first I started comparing myself to Lott's wife from Sodom and Gomorrah. As I reread The Old Testament, I started relating more and more to this unnamed woman. She was forced to run away from her past as she heard the destruction of her life occurring behind her. All she wanted to do was look to her past, when things were normal, and she was punished by God to remain a pillar of salt. The cruelty and destruction of normalcy resonates with me.
So, I have started creating sculptural paintings encrusted in salt. For the paintings, I have been covering the raw canvas with plaster then laying it over parts of my body and letting it dry. Then I submerge the self portraits in an extremely high sodium solution and let them crystalize. I want to take this project further and create a cast of my body then create pillars of salt crystals projecting out of my flesh."