Sharona Franklin’s New Psychedelia of Industrial Healing

All photographs courtesy the artist and King’s Leap
Photographs by Stephen Faught
Review by Rebecca Storm

Hydroxychloriquine, taken orally, is used for the treatment of some types of malaria, as well as lupus, certain varieties of porphyria, and rheumatoid arthritis—its functions are varied. Alongside tapioca pearls, kidney beans, and delicate, empty glass biopharmaceutical antibody syringes; festooning around a bouquet of daisies and punctuated by pills of methotrexate, and organic artifacts; Hydroxychloriquine pills are enshrined in a gelatine sculpture made by artist, Sharona Franklin. They are just some of several medications entombed in the work, and some of many medications prescribed to Franklin. The sculpture suggests the experimental nature of her treatments, and frequent lack of specificity when it comes to the effectiveness of her medications—some of her illnesses are rare, making it difficult to treat them acutely and with efficiency. An ode, perhaps, to the ambiguity of ailment-affected ontology.

On view now at her debut solo exhibition at King’s Leap in New York City, Franklin’s work discloses a sacred perspective on bio-ethics, our ontological perception of disabilities, and society’s subsequent lack of engagement in this dialogue. By unpacking the histories of her own disabilities, methods of pain management, rituals of comfort, and her experiences of the capitalist framework of care, she illuminates the chronic lack of cultural acceptance—from a neglect of social responsibility, to the perpetual ouroboros of biopharmaceutical industries that provide sustenance as much as they are both financially and physically debilitating. “My work is about giving visibility to rare illnesses and the complicated treatments that are often undeveloped, and how we become used as test subjects,” explains Franklin. 

A quilt hangs in the corner, a patchwork of printed flash photographs of bio-ritual altars. The work refers to the connections between biotech and organic forms of sustenance—how the biopharma “anti-bodies” are often invisible to an objective witness to bodies with invisible illnesses, yet the appearance of these bodies can challenge ideas of visibility. This is iterated through the quilt, which symbolizes an outer shroud or comfort-covering, while also giving testimony to Franklin’s #newpsychedeliaofindustrialhealing. Enacted every 24 hours, Franklin would arrange and document her treatments in a meditative practice she refers to as “biocybernetic craft.” The compositions or bio-ritual altars function to photographically document her plethora of medications, which, collaged together in a quilt along with printed textile quotes, embroidery, and other paraphernalia, aesthetically reference the gelatine sculpture nearby. It slowly decomposes over the course of the exhibition, connoting the temporality of organic matter, promising to uncover for the viewer the medications and items once entombed within its gelatinous confines, resulting in a tactile emblem of the bio-ritual altars in the quilt.  

This spiritual transcendence of the physical as depicted through the decomposition occurring within the space is an echo of the tension inherent in the oxymoronic ritual of healing with toxic medicine. Franklin says that as much as her work is about general awareness, it is also about her—hallowed reliquaries decorating the path to self-love and radical self-acceptance


Hemichrome Plate, 2020
12 x 11 x 2 inches
UV print on glazed ceramic

Mycoplasma Altar, 2020
Bone Dust Sculpture: 17 x 17 x 17 inches
Plinth: 16 x 17 x 17 inches
Overall: 33 x 17 x 17 inches
Gelatin powder, daisies, foraged rose thorns sourced by Wretched Flowers, babies breath, juniper berry, metal nuts, kidney beans, amoxicillin pills, hydroxychloriquine pills, methotrexate pills, antibodies in glass syringe vials, tapioca pearls, sunflower seeds, metal button, almond extract, paper mache, wood, acrylic, plaster

Amoebic Self Portrait of Pharmaceutical Preservation Methodologies, 2020
10 x 10 x 2 inches
UV print on glazed ceramic

Comfort Studies, 2020
72 x 55 1⁄2 inches
Cotton, linen, velvet, silk, polyester, vinyl, wood, plastic

 

NEW PSYCHEDELIA OF INDUSTRIAL HEALING is open at King’s Leap, New York, until March 28th, 2020.