Interview with performance artist Julie Laffin

by | Jan 11, 2010 | Chemical Sensitivity News, Featured, NEWS | 3 comments

Julie LaffinLiberty has just posted an interview with MCS performance artist Julie Laffin on her Moving Beyond MCS blog. It’s an excellent interview that explores how Laffin’s creative process has evolved since getting environmental illness. Liberty’s asks some great questions and Laffin’s responses are articulate and insightful. An excerpt from the interview:

Do you have any stories to share of people being unexpectedly supportive or kind to you (as a person or as an artist) since you acquired MCS?

Yes, it has happened many times. One poignant example for me was when my friend Steve Bottoms visited me in Snowflake. He lives in Leeds (England) but came to Chicago to do a lecture and made a special trip to Arizona to see me in July of 2008. Even though he had gone through an elaborate accommodation ritual with personal care products before he arrived I was still not able to tolerate the residual fragrance on his hair and skin. Over the course of our three day visit in rural Arizona, he took many steps on my behalf: leaving his car a half a block from my little rental house, removing his usual shoes and clothes and donning a towel, sealing up his wallet and keys in plastic bag, wearing his contact lenses instead of plastic framed glasses, taking several baths including bathing in baking soda, wearing my husband’s clothes, and eventually shaving his beard and head because after all these steps I was still reacting to a trace of fragrance in his hair. Being artists, we captured most of this process on video and are making a performance about it.

Also, because of the willingness of Clover Morell and Claire Geall Sutton and staff to accomodate my illness, I have been able to continue my curatorial role in Site Unseen, an annual art exhibition at the Chicago Cultural Center. This has been my lifeline and their kindnesses are too numerous to itemize. Also, my husband has changed his whole life to help me.

Bravo to Liberty and Julie for an inspiring interview!

  • Earthwalker

    Earthwalker is the username that PT founder Julie Genser created for her online interactions so many years ago when first creating Planet Thrive.

    Julie's (Earthwalker's) life was derailed over twenty years ago when she had a very large organic mercury exposure after she naively used a mouth thermometer to measure the temperature of just-boiled milk while making her very first pizza at home. The mercury instantly expanded into a gas form and exploded out the back of the thermometer right into her face. Unaware that mercury was the third most neurotoxic element on Earth, Julie had no idea she had just received a very high dose of a poisonous substance.

    A series of subsequent toxic exposures over the next few years -- to smoke from two fires (including 9/11), toxic mold, lyme disease, and chemical injuries -- caused catastrophic damage to her health. While figuring out how to survive day-to-day, and often minute-to-minute, she created Planet Thrive to help others avoid some of the misdiagnoses and struggles she had experienced.

    She has clawed her way over many health mountains to get to where she is today. She is excited to bring the latest iteration of Planet Thrive to the chronic illness community.

    In 2019, Julie published her very first cookbook e-book called Low Lectin Lunches (+ Dinners, Too!) after discovering how a low lectin, gluten free diet was helping manage her chronic fascia/muscle pain.


  1. Liberty

    Thanks for posting this Julie!

    I think the excerpt you chose is one of my favourite parts of the entire interview. When I read that part (we conducted the interview via email) I was deeply moved and read it many times over!
    There are some truly wonderful people in the world and I love hearing stories like that.
    Maybe we could start a forum topic for sharing stories of support or kindness.

  2. earthwalker

    I met Julie’s friend Steve when he visited here and was also deeply touched to know he had shaved his head and beard for her. Even so, he still smelled like fragrance if you leaned in close! Amazing how hard it is to remove those toxic chemicals. I had the pleasure of photographing them doing a performance piece together at an old stone house Julie had discovered. It was great for me to be present to it, and very touching to me to witness a friend make such a huge effort to be a part of her life in a meaningful way.

  3. live with mcs

    This story was wonderful and I could relate to so much of it just living with my husband. When he comes home from work he has to shower, bag his clothes, shoes and wallet and so on before we can really be near. Even at that the chemicals in buildings and products they use are absorbed into their body and it takes a long time to get rid of it. It’s amazing Steve went to the measures he did to be near you. He must be a very special person with a hugh heart to do that for you and to try to make it safe for you :) Oh God if everyone was 1/2 as good and careing as Steve was, this world would be a better [place full of a lot more love!
    It’s wonderful beyond words that they were all so accomidating with you being EI/MCS. I see why this story was featured because you dont come across this very often and when you do it is very special :)

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