Hanging from the wall of Vertex Pharmaceutical’s Boston office is a massive set of sculpted lungs — pink and red, branching out with wide airways. The sculpture (made of foam, corrugated plastic, and glitter) is titled “I Want More Air!”
As creators of game-changing CF drugs Kalydeco and Orkambi, the work’s title serves as a plead for Vertex’s goals. The glitter speckled across the sculpture is a personal statement by the artist, cystic fibrosis patient Dylan Mortimer.
“I feel my whole life has been an attempt to sprinkle glitter over a very ugly diagnosis,” Mortimer says. “In this battle, you are constantly trying to transform a really ugly situation.”
Mortimer has served as a father, husband, pastor, art educator, and CF advocate despite the ugly obstacles of his 38 years with the disease. He’s also exhibited his sculptures nationally and internationally — his Vertex piece is joined by several more in their Boston office as well as pieces in the Boomer Esiason Foundation, the CF Foundation in Bethesda, the Nerman Museum of Contemporary Arts, and more. Much of his work has been used for charitable causes — four pieces were sold to support Hurricane Harvey relief (100 percent of the sales went towards the efforts).
Mortimer’s current work circulates around his experiences with lung illness. The “I Want More Air!” being his first major piece to incorporate CF (the Vertex sculpture is an adaptation of this piece rather than the original). His pop art — most covered in glitter — includes sculptures of Nike Air shoes stomping through mucus, healthy leaves blooming from rib cages, and trees that are reminiscent of lungs.
“Creating artwork has been my push back against being given a deadly diagnosis at birth,” Mortimer says. “It is a search for healing in the seemingly incurable, for hope in seeming hopelessness. I draw inspiration from God, my donor, friends and family, doctors, caretakers, scientists, and all who have helped keep me alive.”
‘Regeneration’ of Soul and Body
Much of Mortimer’s past work blurred lines between hip-hop culture and his Christian faith. He had an exhibit in November 2016 titled “Regeneration,” which intertwined his faith and illness — confidence in his spiritual transformation through Jesus and hopeful for bodily regeneration through a double-lung transplant. He received the lifesaving transplant two months later in January 2017.
“My donor saved my life 10 months ago at 37 years old, and Jesus saved my soul at 8 years old,” Mortimer says.
The artist ran a five-kilometer race in October, nine months after transplant. Of course, his transplant center, Barnes-Jewish Hospital, has proudly hung a few of his sculptures as well.
Visit DylanMortimer.com to learn more and view Mortimer’s art.
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