Installation > Perfectly Cheerful

Perfectly cheerful
2008 - 2009

28 paintings in mineral pigments (iwaenogu) on Japanese paper over panel, one drawing in mineral pigment (gansai) on paper, two sheets of typed text on found paper.
Installation size variable

This title was borrowed from what I found in the Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl from 1867. In this document, an editor of the Daily Evening Bulletin of Philadelphia was quoted as describing the conjoined twins as "perfectly cheerful" in "their strangely blended condition." During my research on conjoined twins, this notion of conjointment as misery was often revealed as just an assumption by people with normal anatomies. I found many accounts by conjoined twins on their conjoined state as loving and happy, which, I must admit, was a surprise at first. I came to realize that our assumption on their unhappy conditions succeeded to eliminate conjoined twins from being born, and even after their births, we insist separating them. There are some surviving conjoined twins now, including Ronnie and Donnie Gaylon (American, born on October 28, 1951) who are the oldest living conjoined twins as of 2014 when they surpassed the previous record holder, Giacomo and Giovanni Battista Tocci (Italian, born in 1875 or 1877 and died at the age of 63.) In a short YouTube video about the Ronnie and Donnie, their doctor says, “Most of the time, they’re their own best friends.” One of the twins exclaim “love, love, love, love, love, love” about his brother.

In this installation, I painted 28 small paintings of conjoined twins that are based on historical documentations including Carmen heroicum de partu monstrifero by Jacob Locher (1471-1528), one of the earliest printed illustration of conjoined twins. In the paintings, patterns, dots, and occasionally flowers and roots fill inside their unique shapes. On the other wall, the drawing of a skeleton of conjoined twins is hanged, reminding us of relentless examinations and studies on their bodies even after their death. On another walls, two long scrolls with typed texts are hanged. One sheet includes verses by the two-headed girl; Millie Christine, and another sheet includes the entire texts from the Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl from 1867.

Ramsbotham, F.H., Miller, H.V.N., Lee, Charles. 1867. Medical Description of the Two-Headed Girl. Heughes’ Book and Job Presses. Rochester, NY.

The World’s Oldest Conjoined Twins on YouTube: (Retrieved: June 28, 2018)

Locher, Jacob, Carmen heroicum de partu monstrifero.
Ingolstadt Johann Kachelofen. Leaf [1a] (t.-p.): Monstrosa hois forma ; Hain. Repertorium, *10162. Brit. Mus. Cat. (XV cent.), III, p. 679 (IA. 13546) Schramm. Bilderschmuck d. Frühdr., v. 16, p. 12, 17 and illus ; Microfilm. Cambridge, Mass., General Microfilm Co., [19--] 1 microfilm reel. 35 mm. 1499.

Archival prints of some paintings are available for purchase. Visit the Store.

Project website for "Perfectly Cheerful."