Category Archives: Art by Asphyxia

Brain surgery is not for me


Let me tell you about Joe, who I met in a shop in France.  He said something to me, which I didn’t understand, and my friend Jenine explained to him that I’m Deaf. No worries. Conversation with Jenine goes on. He asked her how we were enjoying the music festival.

She explained that actually we weren’t attending the music festival.  “But why not? It’s free. You should go to the concert tonight.”

“Well, Asphyxia can’t hear it.”

This hit Joe hard. Hand to his heart, sorrow on his face. He turned to me. “You can’t hear MUSIC?! But what is life without music?” (Or something.. the facial expression said it all – I didn’t catch his words.)

I shrugged. “It’s ok. I’m happy as it is.”

Then Joe has a deep idea. “You know, you could get a bionic ear. Have you thought about that? Then you could hear music.”

Let’s just pause here for a moment. Does Joe really believe I’ve gone my entire life, without it occurring to me until now, that the bionic ear (or a cochlear implant) is a possibility? Does he really think that now he’s suggested it, I’m going to go home and look into the idea?  And, for that matter, does he think he’s the first to come up with such wisdom?

In fact, this is something I find intensely irritating, the need to discuss, regularly, with perfect strangers, the intimate details of what operations I might choose to have.  I have, in the past, explained to people like Joe, that actually, a cochlear implant or bionic ear would do nothing for me since my ears work fine. It’s the nerves connecting my ears to my brain that don’t work. Which means I’d need a nerve implant in my brain. Forget it – I ain’t letting any surgeon poke around in there. But I’m sick and tired of explaining my medical situation to strangers.

My friend Anna came up with a marvellous response:

[FORMAT THIS LARGE, BOLD, CENTRED]”Have you thought about having botox? I feel it would really help your situation.”

But sadly I can’t bring myself to use it. Joe meant well. He just hadn’t thought about Deafness before and I had the great joy of participating while he had his first, elementary encounter with the concept.

Yeah, so that’s Joe, in France. There’s Joes all over Australia too. If I had a dollar for every person who has suggested I get a cochlear implant (or a ‘bionic ear’) I would be rich indeed.

This is a little abstract painting I did in protest. I’m protesting constant need that complete strangers feel to discuss my medical condition with me and make recommendations to me. It’s patronising, intruisive and insulting.

Feel free to share this post to raise awareness of this tricky issue.

(And this painting is for sale – you can buy it online here.)


Happy unChristmas cards

This is a card for those of us who don’t really do Christmas but don’t want to give a total slap in the face to those around us that do, by ignoring it entirely. If, like me, you’re an un-Christmaser, maybe you’d like a pack of these? They sold out quickly last year so grab them while they are available if they take your fancy.

They’re in my shop here.

Antlers and Tulle Christmas cards

If you’re looking for Christmas cards, you might like this one. This is a sweet little doll with antlers I made from an old Norwegian book while I was in France last year. She wears a knitted green jumper and a tulle skirt to match the one I made for myself. It’s plain inside, read for you to write your own greeting for family and friends.

You’ll find packs of 5 in my shop here.

Antlers and Stripes Christmas Cards

These are my most popular Christmas cards. I’ve ordered several packs for this year, but they always sell out so if you’d like some, get in quickly. The card features a papier mache antler doll I made myself, who wears a sweet little striped suit knitted by my fabulous friend, Torhild Trydal. On the front are the words “Merry Christmas” which I wrote with my own handwriting. It’s plain inside, read for you to write your own greeting for family and friends.

You’ll find packs of 5 in my shop here.

Cats are first aid for the heart.

Cats are first aid for the heart. A cat is honest – they please themselves rather than us. So when they choose to come, to connect, that is a special moment between us, a moment that can fill us up and heal us. This little painting is for anyone whose hearts are lifted through connection with our small, furry beings.

This painting is created using plaster and hessian on reclaimed wood. it is richly textured, subtly toned with colours of earth and sea. If you’d like it, it’s in my shop.

Deaf people often need to work harder

Deaf need to work hard

Deafness is not visible, and some of the difficulties Deaf people face can be invisible to hearing people, who can easily take ‘hearing privilege’ for granted. Here, I wanted to raise some awareness about the extra work that Deaf people often do, in order to achieve the same outcomes as hearing people.

A simple example that many Deaf people will relate to is my university maths class. I couldn’t understand the lecturer, who spoke into the whiteboard as he wrote his notes. At that time, I couldn’t sign well, so an interpreter was not an option for me. Instead, I dutifully copied out all the notes on the blackboard, and took them home to try and figure it out. Figuring it out meant hassling my father, who kindly gave me about an hour a day of his time to go over the material, and studying the text book at length. For me to pass that course, I think I put in twice the amount of time that any other student put in, and even then I only just scraped through. University level maths was hard!

Another example is when I wanted to become a professional circus performer. Joining a professional circus company was not an option for me at that time. There simply wasn’t money available for interpreters, and the companies who were interested in me were not in a position to change their entire working environment in order to accomodate my needs. Fair enough. I decided to go solo.

I created my own acts to perform freelance, and approached the agencies that my circus friends got lots of work through. However, I did not receive a single booking. I think they did not feel comfortable putting my material in front of their clients, as they weren’t confident that I, as a Deaf person, would handle the requirements in a professional manner.

With yet another dead end for my desired career, I decided to make it happen myself. I invested my personal savings to pay someone to ring festivals and tell them about my acts. I then posted them the same promotional material that my agents had. Finally! I got bookings! This was before email was popular. I had to spend a lot of time and money training up my admin assistants to present me in exactly the way I wanted to be presented. But the hard work and cost paid off, and for the next ten years I earned a living as a freelance circus performer.

For those of you with hearing privilege, keep in mind the ‘head wind’ that Deaf people often need to deal with in order to get ordinary, everyday tasks done, and in order to get and hold down a job. Perhaps you’d consider hiring a Deaf person, (most Deaf people work very hard – we are used to that in order to survive), or extend an opportunity that just makes life that bit easier.

It happened for me when Arts Centre Melbourne hired me to tell stories as part of a project they were running, and, without me needing to ask, they also hired my interpreter. They had to pay double, to get my stories, compared to what they paid their other storytellers. I like to think it was worth it for them. But maybe, my stories had to be twice as good….

If you’d like to do your bit to help raise awareness, feel free to share this post. Thanks!

Deaf boy

You might have seen some of my other paintings about Deafness:

– ‘Don’t make me lipread, ok?’
– ‘Not sweet, innocent nor stupid: Just Deaf.’
– ‘It is not my goal to be normal.’
– ‘Deaf is the new black.’
– ‘I don’t ask the world to revolve around me – just to access it.’

This is a linoprint of a Deaf boy, and I haven’t added words yet. I can personalise it for you with the words you choose. Feel free to pick from the above list or let me know what you want. It’s available online here.

I’ve also got this linoprint of a Deaf girl with a really cool tattoo ready for you to customise too. In fact, I love her tattoo so much I am thinking I will get one just like it one day.

She’s available online here.