Sept. 16 to Dec. 20, 2019
This exhibit showcases body map artwork created by research participants from Skop’s 2015 dissertation study. The study explored the healthcare experiences of men and women with fibromyalgia, a chronic condition of unknown origin. Skop was motivated to research this topic as a direct result of having coordinated home healthcare services for people with fibromyalgia and observing the stigma they experienced in the healthcare system. The study combined interviews and focus groups with an arts-based research method called body mapping, whereby 25 participants created life-size self-portraits to narrate their healthcare journeys.
Research participants traced their bodies on seven feet of paper and then used the visual space both inside and outside their bodies to represent their identities, narratives of becoming ill, journeys for diagnosis and treatment, interactions with healthcare providers, social supports, and future goals.
The original body maps were created on paper using materials that included paint, markers, pencil crayons, string, felt, construction paper, tissue paper and in some cases incorporated photographs. These paper maps were photographed and then a printing company imposed the digital images onto fabric.
The title of the exhibit — “It’s not a journey, it’s a struggle” — is a quote from a research participant. This quote highlights a key theme in the body maps: the struggle to not only be diagnosed and treated, but to also be believed and cared for in the healthcare system.
Dr. Michelle Skop, PhD, RSW, is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Social Work at Wilfrid Laurier University, Brantford Campus. Skop’s program of research involves using arts-based research methodologies to explore people’s experiences of health and healthcare systems.