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Powerful exhibit explores student's health crisis

SUFFERING FOR ART: Jessica O'Connor sits beside part of her installation, Survival of the Fittest, at the Southern Cross University 2017 Visual Arts Graduate Exhibition.
SUFFERING FOR ART: Jessica O'Connor sits beside part of her installation, Survival of the Fittest, at the Southern Cross University 2017 Visual Arts Graduate Exhibition. Sophie Moeller

JESSICA O'Connor's installation, at The 2017 Southern Cross University Graduate Exhibition, is about so much more than art.

It is about the uterus she has just had removed and an expression of the years of pain she has endured.

The hysterectomy she had four and a half months ago is the "best thing I have ever done," Jessica said.

Recovering from the operation was nothing compared to the years of pain she had endured due to chronic endometriosis, which, two years ago, became cancer.

She attributes her work Survival of the Fittest, which will feature at the opening on Friday night, as a major part of her healing.

"It gives a physicality to the pain I have experienced so people do not just have to listen to me trying to describe it," she said.

The piece is made up of a concrete mattress and manifestations of her pain containing sharp steel objects and star pickets coming out of them.

A real mattress is also displayed with a pelvis skeleton in a bag weighed with cement.

Jessica says her work expresses how one's bed is supposed to be a place of comfort and safety.

"But not for me. It was a place of fear and stabbing pain."

Having been through six months of chemotherapy she eventually opted for the hysterectomy.

Today, she has more energy than ever and said she "didn't realise how much pain she was in until it was gone".

The SCU visual arts course has given her a sense of purpose as well as an outlet to tell her story.

Jessica has also been chosen for the exhibition We Are Closer Than You Think at Old Regional Gallery as part of Artstate at the end of the month.

SCU Graduate Exhibition 2017 from Novermber 11-25 10am- 8pm. Visual Arts Block.

Topics:  garduate exhibition jessica o'connor northern rivers art southern cross university


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