Philip Carey: Art in My Veins

 Philip Carey (American, b. 1942).  Bandage Faces  (2012-2015). Gauze, paper tape, ink, markers, cardboard and type O positive blood. Courtesy of the artist

Philip Carey (American, b. 1942). Bandage Faces (2012-2015). Gauze, paper tape, ink, markers, cardboard and type O positive blood. Courtesy of the artist

March 22-May 13, 2018
 

The work of Philip Carey can be described as colorful, wacky, strange and full of fun. Born in 1942 in Long Beach, Calif., Carey creates art inspired by his dreams and the medical treatments he received between 2004 and 2015. During this period, Carey was diagnosed with heart disease, kidney disease and prostate cancer, and he began collecting the medical ephemera associated with his treatment.

While on dialysis, Carey completed more than 400 drawings on No. 10 envelopes. The experience of dialysis treatment and the time it required—3½ hours a day three times a week for six years—provided the artistic impetus for this “postal art,” which explores “the adventures of mini-Philip,” phobias, “places I would rather be than dialysis,” landscapes, travel and graphics.

Carey’s “Bandage Faces,” actual ornamented and framed bandages gathered from his dialysis treatments, are expressive self-portraits that reflect his moods and feelings while on the dialysis machine. His dream drawings consist of sketches and stories drawn with ink and Prismacolor pencils on 3 x 5-inch Post-It notes. Carey admits, “Dream analysis doesn’t matter to me at all. I really enjoy the fact that things are hiding somewhere in there, and they just happen to come out.”

Carey received a bachelor’s degree in exhibit design from California State University at Long Beach. His recent large-scale work is created from the ephemera of 40 years as an exhibit designer and 10 years as a patient. His life-sized medical self-portrait, Art In My Veins, was recently exhibited at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

The work in this exhibition invites viewers to think about the multiple forms confinement and isolation may take—in Carey’s case, the experience of 3,000 hours of dialysis and more than 25 operations and medical procedures—and their potential to engender artistic output.