Deborah Wing-Sproul will make her empathy visual for all to see during a series of movement-based performances this summer at the Marble Block building in downtown Biddeford. Wing-Sproul, a multidisciplinary artist with a background in printmaking and dance, will bring her lifetime of art-making and emotions to bear in “Durational Devices, I-V,” beginning June 29 and continuing on consecutive Fridays through July 27.

The series is supported by a Kindling Fund grant and the Biddeford nonprofit Engine, which owns the building.

Each two-hour performance will involve Wing-Sproul placing herself in an uncomfortable, vulnerable position on a narrow, body-length aluminum cart on casters. The cart is just a few inches off the ground, and Wing-Sproul will move it around the room, inch by inch and mostly with her toes, while clutching in one hand, and sometimes both hands, a stylus that she uses to make marks on the surface below. Though she does not save them, the resulting drawings are a record of her two-hour performance and her struggle to move.

Each week, she will perform in a different position – in the fetal position, splayed out, on her side, etc. The positions vary in their degree of discomfort and the physical stress that Wing-Sproul is required to endure to sustain each performance. Collectively, “Durational Devices” is meant to recognize the empathy she feels for people who live uncomfortable and challenging lives. Her performance is a manifestation of that empathy, and a visual expression of the emotions we feel when see someone suffering or in pain.

“I’m not trying to be a spectacle,” said Wing-Sproul, who lives in Portland and has shown her work at the Portland Museum of Art and the Center for Maine Contemporary Art. “I’m not a daredevil, and I do not do things to put my body at a degree of risk that is irresponsible.”

Deborah Wing-Sproul during a previous performance of “Durational Devices I-V.” Photo courtesy of Deborah Wing-Sproul

Her work is about endurance, and it pays respect to the old and the ill and all the vulnerable people of the world who live with mental and physical limitations. So often, our culture celebrates joy. Wing-Sproul’s work explores the other side of the equation.

“All people experience degrees of isolation and separation and degrees of pain and suffering,” she said. “If we live long enough, we realize that easy is not the point.”

Her work is dark, because it reminds us of the pain that we all endure. But it’s also light, because we persist. We carry on.

Staff Writer Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes