2023 Grand Prize Winner – Zoe Polish

My Body’s Betrayal


Ceramic sculpture

“My Body’s Betrayal” is 28 ceramic pieces intended as a large-scale representation of pancreatic cells developing Type 1 Diabetes. Each sculpture represents cells in this stage of transformation; the piece altogether resembles the view of these cells through a microscope. The detail within each piece looks like an ecosystem of cells while also being part of the bigger image. As a diabetic, I wanted to highlight the emotional process of understanding that your immune system has betrayed you, leaving behind a lifelong disease. The red splatter resembles blood necessary for glucose readings, one of the many daily struggles diabetics face.

The 28 small sculptures in “My Body’s Betrayal” are meant to fit together like a puzzle to form one large circular piece. My goal is to connect the two pieces of my identity that resonate the most- science and art. As I’m pursuing a major in Biology with a minor in Art and Design, I have seen many similarities between the two career paths. This specific project is a large-scale recreation of what pancreatic cells look like under a microscope when developing Type 1 Diabetes. As a diabetic myself, I’m aiming to raise awareness to what diabetes is- an autoimmune disease. I have spent my entire life coming to terms with the fact that there is something inherently wrong with the way my body works and accepting that I will have to compensate for it every single day. In a way, I feel betrayed by my own biological functions. There are plenty of stereotypes and misconceptions with both types of diabetes, and I wanted to find a way to educate more people. My piece opens the door for that conversation to happen. I hand-sculpted each ceramic piece out of standard clay then glazed and fired them in a kiln. Each individual sculpture represents a cell in this stage of transformation and the piece as a whole is meant to look like the view of these cells through a microscope. The larger vessel holding my pieces resembles a medical tray/petri dish to contrast with the organic shape of the cells. The red splatter in the glaze reads as blood, which is another strong connection to the struggles of being diabetic- poking your finger to draw blood 5 times a day just to eat. To me, the puzzle pieces all make up one view while also being their own ‘puzzle’ individually. The texture and detail within each piece make them look like an ecosystem of multiple cells on their own while also being part of the bigger image.