My hands are not like most people’s. They’re double jointed and, because of an autoimmune disorder, my fingers swell like balloons and then contract, resulting in squishiness and wrinkles. For decades, I’ve been ashamed of my hands.

Four years ago, my brother became very ill, and I began to pay attention to the contradictions of the body: It is a miracle machine, capable of healing itself. But it is also a destroyer, determined to fail or attack itself. My hands, whose condition I had preferred to hide, instead became the focus of my art-making.

I created hundreds of casts of my hands. Some broke (or I broke them) at their weak points, and I embedded the fragments in heavy slabs and blocks. Then I tried to dig them out. My process was a metaphor: I wanted to shield and protect my brother, and simultaneously carve away his cancer.

It was an impossible struggle, but still, an act of creation. 

 

Excerpt from a documentary film by Sarah Friedland, showing Richmond’s process of creation, destruction and art-making.