Tempe artist creates installation publicizing stigma of chronic illness

Members from the community and friends of Crystal Daigle gather at a Maker Party to create Resiliency Roses from denim and pink lame. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Daigle)

Members from the community and friends of Crystal Daigle gather at a Maker Party to create Resiliency Roses from denim and pink lame. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Daigle)

A Tempe artist who has overcome cancer and chronic illness is taking her life experience and creating an art project to spread awareness of the cultural stigma that being sick is shameful.

Crystal Daigle has been suffering from chronic illness for over 17 years. She is a cancer survivor and lives with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. She has always wanted to tango dance, but with her chronic pain, did not think it was possible.

“I decided to follow my heart and began lessons last summer,” Daigle said. “It’s been great for my health.”

With her positive experience with tango dancing, she decided to create an art project, which will be displayed on Mill Avenue to spread awareness about living with chronic pain. The project will feature two ASU dancers along with art pieces she and others are creating over the next few weeks.

Daigle has been holding maker parties that are open to the public to create pieces that will be shown at the exhibit. Those who attended have been making resiliency roses to “honor resilient illness and to contribute roses to someone who is resilient,” according to Daigle. The resiliency roses will be part of the art exhibit.

Lisa Kelly, registered in-home nurse and Daigle’s friend, attended the maker parties and has suffered from fibromyalgia for 13 years. From her experience with working in the medical field, Kelly has firsthand experience with the cultural stigma of being sick.

“It has been a stigma for many years in the medical community,” she said. “They don’t understand and just dismiss it.”

Both Kelly and Daigle have experienced the economic difficultly that comes with an illness. Doctor appointments, medical expenses, medicine, having to miss work and missing events has affected their lives.

Crystal Daigle teaches Sharra, a community volunteer, how to make a Resiliency Rose. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Daigle)

Crystal Daigle teaches Sharra, a community volunteer, how to make a Resiliency Rose. (Photo courtesy of Crystal Daigle)

The maker parties have allowed survivors and others affected by illnesses to open up and talk about living with illnesses.

“It’s neat to hear stories and open up,” Daigle said.

“I’ve gone through different stages; I don’t want to talk about it, people try to argue with you so it makes it almost easier not to talk about it,” she said. “It is interesting and exciting; I have been talking about it more, and I’m less ashamed. There’s a healing power of art, and I can only imagine that will help others.”

Since starting the project, Daigle said she’s been feeling energized and inspired.

“It is something to focus on,” she said. “It’s something positive and distracting.”

With this art project, Daigle said she would “like the judgment taken off of illness.”

“The judgment that puts it on themselves and the way society makes that it must be their fault, we’re scared it can happen to us,” she said. “I’d like to see that change and have people change. It’s a part of life and people should be kind, rather that it could be us someday.”

Kelly said she hopes that with the project, people will acknowledge that despite adversity, they can turn any experience positive.

The art project will be displayed at the Mill Avenue Post Office in Tempe from Aug. 14 – Dec. 10. To contribute to the project, visit http://www.fracturedatlas.org/site/fiscal/profile?id=10223.

 

Reach the reporter at sbero@asu.edu or follow her on Twitter @Sam_Bero48