Aaron Krach, Indestructible Artifact #19 (Swaddle), 2014, image aaronkrach.com
A few days ago I spotted this awesome screenprinted hospital blanket on the website of New York artist and writer Aaron Krach. It was a little Lawrence Weiner, a little Gene Davis, and a lot of #nurseryswaggoals. There was a title, Indestructible Artifact #19 (Swaddle), and a date, 2014, but I thought there might be a story. And there is. And since Aaron tells it better than I can recap it, here it is:
A few hours after my son Jack was born he started breathing awkwardly. Within minutes he was taken to the NICU (neonatal intensive care unit). Quite simply, his lungs did not work properly and the doctors started a series of treatments. The doctors never figured out why. Nothing had gone wrong during pregnancy or delivery, and actually, we we still don't know why his lungs didn't work; they just didn't.On his site Aaron calls the blanket one of "a series of 23 (so far) projects that are finished and unfinished. Through use, they can be completed and finished, in a different way." And though they're technically an artwork-Aaron produced them in an edition of 50-the idea is that people will actually use them, break them in, and then tuck them away for later.
After two days, Jack was not improving and the hospital ran out of options. We had to move him uptown to the NICU at Columbia Presbyterian. They do ECMO, which is a fantastic and terrifying procedure where a refrigerator-size unit takes over the work of ailing lungs. After six days Jack and his lungs showed enough improvement that he could come off the machine.
His parents breathed a massive sigh of relief, and immediately started the next phase, a slow-but-steady recovery. At this point, a nurse or a doctor--unfortunately I can't remember who--told us the phrase now printed on the blanket: "Each day, each day a little bit different." It became a bit of a refrain or mantra that carried us through.
Ultimately we spent a month in the NICU before Jack was strong enough to come home. I became obsessed with the baby blankets in the hospital. The style is ubiquitous. So I decided to combine the phrase and the blankets together.
At first I hoped to make gifts for the doctors and nurses that saved Jack. But over the last year, they have become popular with parents in general or people looking for something different to give a new parent.
Finally, and this may be embarrassing to admit, especially because Jack is crazy-healthy and happy. He will be 2 years old in July. But his mom Helen, Jack's other dad Blake, and me still find ourselves muttering this line to each other every once in a while. Luckily now it's in regards to something completely unrelated to Jack's lungs.
That said, they also look awesome framed. Thanks to Aaron and his whole family for sharing their story.