YOUR INNER FISH
Thread and ink on cotton canvas
It’s easy to notice the differences between species (or people) but when you look from a biological perspective, we are incredibly similar. This became obvious to me during a trip to the Mutter Museum in Philadelphia. Upon seeing the reproduction of a section of human spinal cord with nerves attached, I was instantly reminded of a fish being gutted or a shrimp being deveined. I was not surprised to read the placard that explained our evolution from fish 375 million years ago. I’ve since learned that this is detailed extensively in the book Your Inner Fish, by Neil Shubin, hence the title of this piece.
It is often tempting to think that fish or other animals don’t feel pain. But they have a central nervous system and pain receptors just like we do. The same temptation can be made when thinking about groups of people that are “other” from us. For example, many white doctors believe the myth that black skin is less sensitive than white skin and under-prescribe pain medication to black people. The fact is that all humans are 99.9% genetically identical. Attempts made to use genetics to justify superiority, whether that be over other people or over other animals, is incorrect at best and life threatening at worst.
We need to remember that species, like groups of people, do not exist in a bubble. Our survival depends on the survival of other species. The destruction of our oceans will spell our demise. That is represented in this piece by the circle formed from the two skeletons and their outstretched arms reaching for each other. When we pollute the ocean, we end up consuming that pollution. It is a cycle. In terms of human society, we need to reach out and find our similarities as human while celebrating our cultural differences. Division amongst us only serves to hold up current power structures and imbalances in power and wealth. We are stronger together.
I use sewn thread in my artworks to represent the interconnected nature of the world. The more I stitch, the more my works seem to “make sense” to me and I can see the connections. This piece uses the technique of free motion machine embroidery. After sewing the outline of the subjects and adding a base of color using alcohol ink markers, the piece is brought to life by meticulous stitching of texture and value differences. This creates a layered feel to the piece. I seek to create a bold look that retains its softness. The resulting textile piece has a sense of warmth that a painting or drawing might not have.