Shared Matter: Art, Lungs, and Social Media
By Dani Dodge
Since he was very young, Dominic Quagliozzi knew he couldn’t breathe as well as other people. But he didn’t let the condition robbing him of air, Cystic Fibrosis, beat him. Instead, it fueled his passion for art, and became his art.
In January 2014, when Quagliozzi woke from a coma caused by acute lung failure, he kept the hospital gowns from his stay, knowing they could be raw material for future work. And when he finally received a lung transplant in June 2015, he began creating art only two weeks after someone else’s lungs were sewn into his chest.
“When I got listed, I was just finishing my master’s in painting and I was joking around with everyone … saying as soon as they take my old lungs out I will become some lame artist making whatever,” Quagliozzi told medical students at a reception for his solo show, “Shared Matter,” at the Hoyt Gallery, Keck School of Medicine of USC.
The exhibition proves his art continues with a vibrancy that matches the newfound strength of his healthy lungs.
“Shared Matter” continues through Nov. 2, 2016, at the Hoyt Gallery, which is located at 1975 Zonal Ave, Los Angeles, CA 90033. It is open to the general public Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 6 p.m.
Dominic’s exhibit launches the school’s Humanities, Ethics, Art, and Law Program’s new mission to align the work of artists who have been patients with the school’s core medical curriculum. Los Angeles artist Ted Meyer—the artist in residence at the Keck School of Medicine—curated the show.
“I am curating four shows a year that bring patient-artists into the medical school as a way of giving future doctors a view of their patients’ lives that they might not have access to otherwise,” Meyer explained.
Meyer first approached a different school, UCLA, six years ago with the idea of having an artist working with the medical school. They agreed to give it a try. At UCLA Meyer curated 19 shows featuring 25 artists, plus one show that included 163 artists who each mailed in their work.
“I have given a lot of artists a showplace for work that normally would be hidden,” Meyer said. “No matter how beautiful, works about cancer, bipolar disorder and electroshock therapy generally do not get shown in the art world. People say that art should be about something, until it actually is. I’m trying to bridge that gap.”
Meyer was invited to move the program to USC in September, and said Quagliozzi was a perfect fit for the first show for a number of reasons, including that he was treated at USC for about nine years before getting his lung transplant.
“I thought it might be good for the people working there to see the fruits of their labor, namely that he is still alive,” Meyer said, “but more importantly his work is great and it really speaks to the patient experience.”
Over his artistic career, Quagliozzi has done much of his work in hospital rooms while being treated. The current show at Hoyt Gallery displays work from before and after his lung transplant.
At the opening this week, several dozen medical students listened with rapt attention while Quagliozzi spoke about his medical journey. (Many more had attended his formal artist talk earlier that day.) Quagliozzi spoke about the moments before he fell into a coma, and how he and his wife were urged to say their last goodbyes. And how afterward he used the gowns he wore during the coma as art.
In the series “Coma Gowns, 2014,” he made abstract art from the gowns he wore during the four-day stay in the ICU on a ventilator. The gowns, which appear to be stretched over stretcher bars, are beautiful, elegant and tragic all at the same time.
On a different wall are the works Quagliozzi created after his lung transplant in 2015, many of them while he was still in the hospital at Stanford. He explained that during the first three months of recovery, he was mostly cut off from his friends and artistic social circles. But he had a new smartphone and on it he created digital collages and paintings. He then posted the works on Instagram.
“I get a lot of responses from these because people found them through tags (such as #lungtransplant, #cysticfibrosis, and #contemporaryart),” he said. “It was a really great way to share about illness.”
Quagliozzi said that ultimately, his goal is to make work that fosters a dialogue and empathetic exchange surrounding disease.
“Using situations within my life as starting points for reflection, I make work that brings into focus the nature of disability and societal implications of illness,” Quagliozzi said.
For more information about “Shared Matter,” contact ArtandMed@gmail.com
To see more of Quagliozzi’s work go to http://www.artistdominic.com