Ellen Driscoll

The Banners of Mum's the Word

Mum's the Word by Ellen Driscoll

Read more about the work, from Jerome Kaplan

Cambridge-based artist Ellen Driscoll began this project, called "Mum's the Word," in honor of her father, who developed aphasia after a stroke in 1975. Philip Driscoll, who died in 1993, was a patient at Spaulding for six months after his stroke. There are 48 banner designs, each reflecting how aphasiacs see themselves and their illness.

Ellen Driscoll is a multi-media artist whose recent projects have included 21 permanent artworks for the newly restored Grand Central Terminal in New York City. Her project, "Mum's the Word," is dedicated to her father, a stroke survivor and person with aphasia.

Driscoll writes, "my work in sculpture, drawing, and public art explores the role of imagination, adaptation, and re-invention as compensation for loss--- such as when a tree sprouts new growth from the site of a lost branch or grows around a wire fence incorporating this foreign agent in its biological path, or when our brain chemistry adapts itself through the re-wiring of its circuitry after accident or injury. How is a new self constructed when part of the body or the mind has been lost? When part of the body or the mind is split from itself? When one is "split" from the body politic or from a certain narrative interpretation of history?

My work explores these themes through the use of physical paradoxes which set up an interactive yet fragile and unstable encounter. Employing both formal shapes such as circles and wheels, and narrative structures found in early film and photography devices, memory devices, and alchemical diagrams, the pieces all attempt to incite the viewer to imagine a sense of a unified whole from disparate fragments, and to imagine themselves "in the picture" of seemingly distant narratives. In a piece such as "As Above, So Below", a series of contemporary figures seamlessly reside in cosmological ideas centuries old,in a suite of twenty mosaic and glass images in the northern end of Grand Central Terminal. These narratives are rendered by crosspollinating an ancient mosaic technique with a new digitized one. The fragments of the tiny mosaic pieces cohere into wholeness in the ambient peripheral vision of rushing commuters, and invite those viewers to imagine themselves in cosmologies both present and past.

In studio based work such as "Small World" or "Plus and Minus Equals Zero" frameworks equipped for motion with multiple sets of wheels are held like Gulliver by the Lilliputians in a web of delicate strings and weights. Here, paradoxes of motion and stasis, weight and lightness, wholeness and fragmentation are held in physical tension. No narrative or interpretation seems fixed for long in these pieces. The world presented is a highly fluid one.

"knowledge of the world tends to dissolve the solidity of the world, leading to a perception of all that is infinitely minute, light, and mobile... Emptiness is just as concrete as solid bodies... the world is made up of the qualities, attributes, and forms that define the variety of things, whether plants, animals, or persons.  But these are only the outward appearances of a single common substance that___if stirred by profound emotion___may be changed into what most differs from it."

* Italo Calvino, Six Memos for the Next Millenium  writing about Lucretius and Ovid

Artist Site

Jerome H. Kaplan is a speech-language pathologist at Mount Auburn Hospital in Cambridge, Massachusetts and a co-founder of the Boston Area Aphasia Community Group. He is committed to involving the arts community in helping persons with communication disorders.

The National Aphasia Association 2006 Aphasia Conference will be held at Boston University's Sargent College in June, 2006. For more information, contact Sargent College School of Communication Disorders.

For more information about aphasia, go to the National Aphasia Association's website: www.aphasia.org