The Khyber Centre for the Arts
Halifax, Nova Scotia
February 23 – March 31, 2022

“Pain”? What is that? “Pleasure”? What is that?
An exploration of botany, chronic illness, and humour within the medical system

I spent most of 2020 in bed with pain and fatigue at my mom’s in small town Ontario, waiting for a diagnosis that turned out to be Crohn’s Disease. During this period of time things either stood still, or changed very quickly. I became obsessed with the properties that allow plants to re-grow completely from a hacked off cutting; empty prescription pill bottles full of propagations sprouting new roots covered the kitchen window sill.

My younger sister was diagnosed with an Inflammatory Bowel Disease over a decade ago, and has been a pal through this transition. Someone to reflect, joke with, and send infusion selfies to. Through surgery, a new third hole, getting hooked up to infusion meds every seven weeks and becoming immunocompromised during a global pandemic, these last 2 years have been spent learning first-hand what the “chronic” means in chronic illness. My relationship to the word recovered has been in flux ever since.

In my sickly gardens, I’ve been researching methods and processes of healing, control, and resiliency found within the field of botany. The most sci-fi process so far being plant grafting.

All forms of plant grafting require cutting, healing, and regrowth.

After the cuts, incisions, and surgeries, the wound needs to be protected, wrapped and bandaged until it heals to avoid pests and diseases entering the new graft. It’s also important for the graft union to remain moist, so the plant’s tissues don’t die before the new growth can occur. Plants have given me imagination, escape, future thinking, and a picture of what resiliency and healing can look like.

It’s quickly coming up to two years from when my IBS progressed to Inflammatory Bowel Disease, and this new body keeps offering up surprises. I’m asking it:

“Pain?” What is that? “Pleasure?” What is that?

– Sarah Mihara Creagen, 2022

Photo documentation by Michael Creagen, courtesy of The Khyber Centre for the Arts


The artist gratefully acknowledges support from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council.







November 9 – December 8, 2019


Opening : November 8, 2019 7 pm
Discussion: November 9, 3pm Sarah Mihara Creagen and Anthony Cudahy(NYC):
A conversation between 2 Queer figurative artists

Dirty Play

Essay by Ariane Fairlie

What do botany, BDSM, and medical examinations have in common? On the surface, you would be forgiven for assuming nothing, but Sarah Mihara Creagen artfully threads an unlikely line of investigation through all three, engaging the various tools and apparatuses used by each group as starting points to discuss sex and sexuality, care, health, and consent. Creagen’s artwork explores these themes as they relate to her experiences with IBS, and her identity as a queer, white-passing cis woman with mixed- race Japanese heritage.

Working primarily in drawing, as well as installation and animation, Creagen creates a visual language that references medical texts, comics, botany, and pulp magazines, among other influences. Drawings such as Sisters’ Fart Corner are inspired by Japanese Edo-period fart competition scrolls. Using the historical form to draw-out personal themes, Creagen’s large scale drawings are in direct contrast to the original scrolls (approx. 12 x 400 inches in length). The original scrolls were, as far as we know, entirely created by men with men as their primary subjects, and it’s unknown and unclear if they were meant to contain political commentary. Creagen subverts the form with the insertion of her personal narratives.

Creagen employs humour in her practice to confront subjects conventionally considered uncomfortable, such as flatulence and bodily fluids. Boldly dominating the composition, the characters of Creagen’s work propel themselves across the page with great gaseous farts or powerful streams of piss. The absurd scenes combined with the con dent and easy demeanor of the characters provide the playful conditions to explore these taboo subjects.

Much of Creagen’s art pushes against current social norms. She describes the BDSM influences in her drawings as primarily an interest in power dynamics. Here BDSM is a tool to safely and consensually explore the exchange of power through the performance of different roles.

In a similar vein, her use of plant imagery also illustrates the dynamics of social relations. Staking, for example, is a strategy used by gardeners to encourage a plant’s growth. The gardener inserts a post into the ground and props up a drooping limb to support the plant from failing. Staking is used in Creagen’s drawings as a tender visualization of care and support versus restraints. Resurrection plants (from the poikilohydric plant family), feature in many of her drawings. These plants can withstand extreme drought for months and even years by drifting into a dormant state. Though it appears to be dead, as soon as water is reintroduced to its root system the resurrection plant springs back to life within hours. It can shift in and out of this period of life and lifelessness many times. Creagen draws upon these qualities of resilience and hope to speak to themes of self-care, isolation, and renewal.

Throughout Creagen’s work, apparatuses intersect and morph into each other; the speculum, the dildo, the chastity belt, ropes, and bondage implements, gloves, a switch/ twig. The interplay between soft bodies, sterile medical instruments, erotic sex objects and botanical elements, acid colours, and voluptuous lines, enriches Creagen’s work. She expertly weaves these elements together, formulating rich connections through dirty play.

Photo documentation by Guy L’Heureux , courtesy of Articule

Documentation of performance

80WSE Gallery, NYC 

In 2017, I performed thirty minutes of surgical prepping on a woman in a gallery window on the corner of Broadway and 10th Street. She was dressed in my clothes, standing in front of a live video feed that was projected onto a sheet of canvas. The canvas was hung on the inside of one of the two street facing windows where the performance took place. Viewers passing by could only see the performance through these windows. During the thirty-minute prepping done to the woman’s projected figure on the canvas “screen,” I washed her figure, dried and shaved her body, and eventually cut and stitched her up. If the woman being prepped turned her head to look at her projected body, she could see what was happening if she chose to. I didn’t talk, look at, or touch the woman’s body itself.

Through the performance, I tried to create a dissociative experience between me prepping the woman’s projected body and the woman’s experience of herself through emotion or empathy rather than a physical experience of touch. The woman’s autonomy and control during the performance was limited to her decision whether to watch or not.