Lisa Bufano (Bachelor of Fine Arts '03) has no fingers, no legs below the knee, and no interest in discussing how she got that way. Instead, she'd rather talk about her art, which ranges from sculpture and stop-motion animation to, more recently, modern dance. "My eye has always been drawn to abnormal forms," Bufano says, referring to dolls she has made and animated that have no face, extra ears, or hair curlers for legs. "It's just that now my tool is my body. I'm still animating a form, but it's my own form."
Bufano never intended to become a performance artist. As a kid, she was a competitive gymnast, but after a bacterial infection led to the amputation of her fingers and lower legs when she was twenty-one, she lived and worked mostly out of the spotlight. In 2005 she quit her job as a web developer at the Museum of Science in Boston to concentrate on her artwork. Just as she was settling down in the studio, though, a professor at the University of Linz who was studying the lives of amputees found her Web site. He offered her a stipend and a trip to Viennaif she would create and present a performance. "The idea was absolutely terrifying to me," Bufano recalls. "That seemed like a good reason to do it." A set of Queen Anne table legs became stilts for her legs and arms"I felt like a shape-shifter," she saysand a performance artist was born.
Armed with a grant from the Franklin Furnace Fund for Performance Art and the choreography of dancer Heidi Latsky, Bufano staged her first major work, Five Open Mouths, in New York City in January. In June she'll take the performance to the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. She'll also begin a three-year residency with San Francisco's pioneering Axis Dance Company, which brings dancers with disabilities together with typical contemporary dancers. "I'm not an astounding dancer," Bufano says. "But being a performer with a deformity, I find that there's a gut response in audiences, an attraction/repulsion aspect to it that can be compelling. I just hope that there's a balance between that gut response and the substance of a performance."
For more information, and to see video of her performances, visit www.lbufano.com.