This piece is made up of four related panels that each depicts a typical human heart rate as it appears in a heart monitor (ECG). The heart rate appears medically “normal” in each case, but only at first glance. A closer look shows that the heart is working very hard to look fine. In Panel 1, the heart pumps fiercely so as not to freeze at high altitude with low oxygen. In Panel 2, the heart pumps violently through rock and stone. In Panel 3, the heart is cracking as it tries to pump through parched ground. In Panel 4, the heart pumps relentlessly through arctic ice melt. In these later two paintings, the heart rate is also pictured horizontally rather than vertically, another sign that things are "going sideway."
Sufferers with invisible chronic illnesses often "look fine" on the outside. Without any visible signs of ailment, they often fear that others see them with suspicion when they try to convey the debilitating nature of their illness and its immobilizing effects on the body. They don’t look sick enough to be sick. And in my case, "my vitals are fine." But beneath appearances, the body is deeply struggling. It gives the illusion of functioning for short periods of time for the benefit of others, but no one sees how hard it is working or how much sufferers pay for each small activity.
A body that is chronically ailing with an invisible illness, can be seen as a microcosm for the earth itself. On a beautiful, sunny day the natural world appears fine. But on closer look, the earth is suffering. The panels in this piece thus double as a depiction of the natural world. Each panel represents one of the four elements of nature – air, fire, earth, and water – and shows how the natural world is struggling to maintain its vital heartbeat in the face of human activity and climate change. Whether looking on a micro or macro level, a state of health cannot be measured by fixating on the most obvious of vital signs. Even if our vitals look fine, we may still be profoundly unwell.