Life story in art

Local artist Lisa Figge tells audiences about her Multiple Sclerosis through her work

Lisa Figge’s exhibit I Can Only Make It Up Once has four parts: an installation piece on the stairs, a marionette with no arms and two videos.
Lisa Figge’s exhibit I Can Only Make It Up Once has four parts: an installation piece on the stairs, a marionette with no arms and two videos.

Watch your step — there’s artwork on the floor.

Kingston artist Lisa Figge is trying to tell you her story.

Her exhibit I Can Only Make It Up Once contains four separate installation art pieces in Modern Fuel. You don’t have to look far for the first one — it’s underneath your feet when you walk inside.

Figge has Multiple Sclerosis and her muscles have started deteriorating, making everyday activities difficult, like climbing the stairs.

As you walk into the gallery and up the main stairwell, there are blue painted words on each step reading words like “shift” and “scooch.” Some words were centred, while others were on the left or right.

The title of the exhibit was clear as I saw the blue painted words “I can only make it up once” written on the ground — Figge was trying to explain to her audience how hard an everyday activity is for her when it only takes us seconds.

Brows furrowed, I kept walking up the stairs.

Once I saw the video presentation in the State of Flux Gallery, I understood. The video portrayed Figge climbing up the stairs, sitting on each step and having to lift herself up to every new step. The words painted on the stairs described the actions she completed to take her up the stairs.

I understood, but that didn’t mean I enjoyed the work as an art exhibit.

Figge’s use of her story in her art was powerful, but I wasn’t necessarily moved.

When I finally understood the message, I didn’t know what to do with the artist’s bottom line.

Although I didn’t know what I was supposed to be taking away from the show, I did think I was able to get an accurate understanding of the difficulties Figge faces.

But my first reaction was pity — an emotion I’m not sure was intended by the artist.

The video of Figge climbing the stairs was filmed on the opening night of the show, and you could see the audience members watching her as she made her way up. It was extremely uncomfortable to watch as I didn’t agree that Figge was brave to put herself out there for people to stare at.

Figge was using her art to speak to audiences about her disability in a creative way — I got it. She accomplishes her goal, but I don’t know if she made a lasting impression on me with her artwork.

Lisa Figge’s I Can Only Make It Up Once is on display in the State of Flux Gallery of Modern Fuel until Nov. 24.

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