About Karly Michelle
The Short Version:
Karly is a multi-disciplinary artist and researcher with an interest in illness visuals and narratives, and creativity as reflection. In 2020 she began a PhD researching biography in palliative care and attempts to maintain a side hustle exploring spiritual auto/biography and creative contemplative spirituality if / whenever possible. Karly lives with fibromyalgia, and on Wurundjeri land.
The Story Version:
These days it feels like anything I’ve ended up doing I have fallen into rather than planned my way into and I am slowly making peace with knowing that it’s all well and good to make plans, but be prepared to hold them loosely.
Looking back though, I am now able to pull together some threads which, surprisingly, weave together cohesive themes.
I loved to make things as a child, and I’ve loved to make things again since high school but actually going to school threw me off course a little. Because my interest wasn’t in realism or realistic drawing, I didn’t think I could be an artist. I did, however, enjoy and study theatre at high school, and after one false start at uni, I ended up studying theatre in Sydney. I focused on stage management, direction and production elements and I loved the way theatre brought together people and creativity.
However, soon after I completed my BCA and had returned to Melbourne it was clear that the ill health I had been experiencing was not going to go away. Life slowed considerably and a new way of being had to be found as I was eventually diagnosed with fibromyalgia. It was during this time that I ‘returned’ to a more visual creative expression as I could do it by myself, and when, and as, I was able. I began to read further into an as yet unrealised interested in contemplative spirituality and slowly began to combine this with creativity. I expanded this through the conveniently part-time and predominately online Master of Arts in Church Practice which allowed me to focus on my interests in art and spirituality. This later led to some tertiary teaching at Tabor in a variety of art and spirituality units, including drama and a few others, culminating in a permanent Lecturer in Art position for a number of years.
Unfortunately, the mixture of work and ill health was not finely balanced enough and I again became too unwell to continue. I lent even more heavily on the visual arts this time and slowly began to exhibit work which was predominantly about the experience of ill health, something which I now have come to term ‘illness visuals’ (adapted from ‘illness narratives’- the writing of the experience of ill-health, which I also do sometimes). I ended up re-training in lifestyle where I then taught in the Cert IV of Leisure and Health and worked as a lifestyle assistant in an aged and disability care facility.
This led to an interest in palliative care, which led to the current PhD research in biography in palliative care. I am now currently making and researching predominately at home as I seek to live the balance that encompasses life, health, creativity, and research. I am sure it is something that I will need to work on continually as the focus, requirements and expectations of each ebb and flow.
You can download this one page pdf CV
I am interested in the place where art, spirituality and health dis/connect, their expression and hopefully, re-connection. The need for the expression of ill-health has been a driving force because of my ongoing experience of the chronic condition fibromyalgia. The experience also continues to highlight the place of spirituality, as we cannot separate our bodies from who we are. In this exploration I like to engage with a variety of materials, playing and experimenting to find those most suitable and expressive for each piece. My health also dictates what I can and can’t do at times; if I am well I can engage in more physical creative work, but when I am unwell or in pain I must do simple, and slow movements so flexibility is important. The ideas of re-use and giving new life to old objects are also regularly explored, especially in relation to ill-health.
This personal interest has lead me to invite others into this space also, not only through my art but also by facilitating workshops; workshops that are less about technique and more about personal expression and experience. These workshops are primarily run under the broad and ongoing ‘The Moments of Rest Project’ that morphs into various guises depending on what is required but always has the key components of inner self-expression and finding a place of rest.