“They seem perfectly cheerful in their strangely blended condition; declare that they know of no inconvenience resulting from it, and protest that they would be unhappy if they were separated, were such a thing possible.”
from "The Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl" 1867.
I made these paintings of conjoined twins for an installation called “Perfectly Cheerful” in 2008 - 2009. Paintings were made with iwaenogu (mineral pigment from Japan) on special rice paper over wood panels.
I became fascinated with images of conjoined twins while researching on circus images for my other works. I stumbled upon images of side show people during my research, and I was quickly drawn into these people.
The title derives from the text in "The Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl" from 1867. The editor of the Daily Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia described the conjoined twins attitudes in “their strangely blended condition.” The entire text from the same book was typed on the found old paper, representing the voice of cultural authority and medicine. In response to these voices, the verses of the two-headed girl; Millie Christine were also included in this installation.
All the figures of conjoined twins were based on historical docuemets that I found on my research. They range from one of the earliest printed illustration of conjoined twins in "Carmen heroicum de partu monstrifero" by Jacob Locher (1471–1528), to more recent conjoined twins, Yvonne and Yvette McCarther, a craniopagus (joined at the head) born in 1949.
In this installation, small paintings of conjoined twins fill one wall. Their unique shapes are made more distinct by their graphic and abstract presentation. Patterns, dots, and occasionally flowers and roots inhabit their bodies; sometimes depicting romantic views on conjoinment and sometimes suggesting separate individuality. On the other wall, the drawing of a skeleton of conjoined twins reminds us of that many conjoined twins were intensely studied throughout their lives and even after their death.