Kaitlyn Wittig Mengüç at CEI Artworks

The primary function of art, perhaps, lies in its ability to simply transmit individual experience to the greater community. Undoubtedly, a large part of this exists within the historical record that is formed whenever a piece of art is made, exhibited, or performed. In the case of performance, artist Kaitlyn Wittig Mengüç’s upcoming Dancing with IV and The Methotrexate Ballet exhibition and performance come together to share an experience of childhood cancer and life as a “professional patient.”

A resident of Corvallis, Mengüç co-founded Plural (www.pluralculture.org), a research-different arts service organization that dedicates itself to advancing equity in the arts by offering support to arts-related organizations, art administrators, and artists themselves. Adding to Mengüç’s BA in Theatre from the University of Pittsburgh, she earned an MA in Arts Administration and Policy from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. According to her artist statement, her greater body of work often includes performance and puppeteering at the “intersection of the arts, health, and cultural equity.”  Mengüç goes on to add that her work focuses on putting questions to the ideologies that drive movement, connections, and divisions within communities. Her history with healthcare is a major influence—perhaps especially so with Dancing with IV and the accompanying performance piece.

“This piece, in particular the performance, has been kicking around in my brain for about 16 years. I was diagnosed with a rare bone cancer, an osteogenic sarcoma, at the age of 15; while the medical professionals buzzing around prepared me for some of the logistical concerns of my “new normal” (my chemotherapy and surgical schedules), no one spoke to me about the very real possibility of my treatment’s side effects. Doctors skipped covering potential infertility, hallucinations, bizarre side-effects of the drugs, the non-stop nausea, or even the incredibly invasive way in which medicine would dictate my entire life for the next two years. No one spoke of the complete lack of modesty in medicine,” explained Mengüç.

She went on to explain that doses of chemotherapy would often create “nightmarish hallucinations,” and that those memories have stuck with her over the years. These experiences in particular drive The Methotrexate Ballet performance, and also factor into the related installation.

As biological entities, we are all subject to our bodies’ triumphs and tortures. Though I doubt very much there are many things that compare to the horror and struggle of a battle with cancer, I believe most of us will be readily able to relate to Mengüç’s performance and installation in our own way. If not that, certainly the story behind it. It takes a special strength to wage such a war and then convert it into something beautiful.

Art being what it is, you can find yourself sharing in the experience just by taking a nice walk down 4th Street during this month’s Corvallis Arts Walk. And you’re going to want to—this is a local artist worth paying close attention to.

Dancing IV runs from April 20 through May 15 at downtown’s CEI Artworks Gallery. An opening reception is
on Thursday, April 20 from 4 to 8 p.m. The Methotrexate Ballet will be performed at 7 p.m. during the reception. For more on the artist, visit http://www.wittigmenguc.com./

By Johnny Beaver