Jenn Singer Gallery presents VIATICUM, a solo exhibition of emotionally charged work by 31-year-old NYC based artist Kaylin Andres, co-curated by Ricardo Kugelmas. Diagnosed eight years ago with Ewings Sarcoma—a rare bone cancer—Andres has undergone countless rounds of radiation, chemotherapy and surgeries. While battling her own terminal illness, she’s advocated for young adults with cancer and has been featured on NPR's The Takeaway, BBC Radio, MTV, The Huffington Post, and Planet Cancer. Andres’ background in fashion design helps inform her visual art work, which combines photography with textiles, embroideries with hair lost from the side effects of chemotherapy and handmade reliquaries inspired by her own spiritual journey of healing and survival.
Viaticum is the receiving of the Eucharist before death–the last rites. Pagans, predating Christianity, would place a coin in the mouths of the deceased as a toll for the underworld. The viaticum can be considered provisions for a journey—it is meant to provide spiritual sustenance and safe passage. According to Joseph Beuys, art possesses curative properties; the function of art is to heal. The creation of the work in the exhibition is Kaylin Andres’ own viaticum—sustenance for the spirit, fuel to keep going regardless of her prognosis.
The series of self-portraits in VIATICUM are from a recent pilgrimage to Brazil to see the renowned Spiritist medium Joao de Deus or “John of God”. Andres’ work reflects her fascination with the connection between art and birth, and the physical and spiritual worlds. Andres believes to make art is to take from one's inner world and make it material—to give it life in the physical realm. John Keats said that poets are the midwives of reality. Our thoughts and feelings are diaphanous and ephemeral, yet our creation can be sensed and shared. With this we can communicate what is otherwise unknowable and save what would otherwise be lost. As the artist or midwife functions as a bridge to another world, so, too, does the medium vacillate between material and immaterial.
Nineteenth century mediums displayed an emesis of cloth from various orifices, known as ectoplasm—the physical manifestation of the soul. Many mediums used methods of swallowing and regurgitating cheesecloth, textile products smoothed with potato starch and in other cases the ectoplasm was made from paper, cloth and egg white or butter muslin. Andres’ work captures this manifestation in her ethereal portraits on organza.
In Brazil there is a long history of Spiritism, a mysterious mélange of Catholicism and shamanistic mysticism—the belief that the medium is a conduit for spirits, and those spirits have the divine ability to heal. It is said that faith healer Joao de Deus conjures the spirits of the greatest doctors throughout history to perform psychic medical miracles. Kaylin Andres was, and still is, in need of a miracle. Her journey to Brazil was as much about finding hope as it was about finding a cure. This exhibition is the same. It gives Andres hope and encourages her to continue her journey and serves as a fundraiser to help support her as she does.
The artist would like to thank Brazilian photographer Marina Najjar for her collaboration on the project.