Zoe Cinel’s latest exhibit is overwhelming, buffeting viewers in red light, sound and video clips from all angles.

From "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of an Artist with Pain" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.
From "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of an Artist with Pain" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.

It’s supposed to be too much -- “Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of the Artist with Pain” is Cinel’s manifesto on living with chronic pain, as an immigrant in the U.S., during the pandemic.

Anyone would be overwhelmed by that.

“It’s violence, it’s a war,” she said. “It’s just hanging in there.

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Video still image from "Ode to My Medical Bills, 2021" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.
Video still image from "Ode to My Medical Bills, 2021" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.

The exhibit opened at RCTC Gallery on Friday, Nov. 12. It will hang there through Dec. 17, 2021.

Cinel, an interdisciplinary artist and Rochester Art Center curator, was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition in which her body’s immune system attacks its own tissue -- especially at the joints -- just a year ago. She was 28 years old when she began medication, and cut out drinking, dancing and many other activities that brought her joy.

“I live the life of a retired person,” she laughed.

From "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of an Artist with Pain" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.
From "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of an Artist with Pain" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.

Cinel’s illness is invisible, so she “doesn’t look like a sick person,” she said. Still, she wakes up every morning with pain in her knees, hands, fingers -- it changes every day, and is impossible to predict.

Cinel uses video clips, harsh lights and medical images of her own bones and joints to buffet visitors with information that they, like her, probably can’t grasp all at once.

“I’m trying to convey an experience where people have to deal with that,” she said. “There’s a lot happening, and they need to process it in the same way as me.”

“The exhibit is raw,” Cinel added. “I’m going to need time, maybe years, to learn how to live with this.”

From "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of an Artist with Pain" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.
From "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of an Artist with Pain" by Zoe Cinel. Contributed.

If You Go

What: "Too Hot to Handle: Portrait of the Artist with Pain"

When: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Monday-Friday, Nov. 12-Dec. 17

Where: RCTC Gallery, Room CC200 (across from the Hill Theatre), College Center, 1926 Collegeview Road SE, Rochester.

Cost: Free