Kinesthetic empathy is a term that talks about our ability as humans to feel each other's pain. We have an incredible understanding and connectivity with people we hold close in our lives. The body of work for my MFA Thesis Exhibition explores some aspects of these phenomena by illustrating emotional relationships in glass sculpture. There are many different ways that people empathize with one another, therefore, different aspects and rituals of commiserating are explored to better understand why we can feel another person's pain without physically experiencing it.
I have a very specific connection with this type of empathy; my younger sister, Leigh, has been sick her whole life. While Leigh appears healthy and well, she has a multitude of autoimmune diseases that have required her to be on chemotherapeutic medication since she was very young. She feels severe physical pain everyday of her life. Growing up as her older sister, I felt compelled to protect her. In this lifelong attempt to protect her emotionally and physically, I have experienced a huge range of emotions related to her pain and health struggles. While many people feel sympathy for Leigh and her health issues, I think that our strong connection as siblings has made our relationship unique. While most elder siblings take a defensive stance with the younger, I have found my feelings to be more akin to survivor's guilt.
Through the use of portraiture with elements of the grotesque, I show a relatable person with whom one would feel a connection to, as well as a physical deformity that may be difficult to look at otherwise. The contrast of combining realistic bodily features assuming impossible physical distortions will pull the viewer into the work to investigate something seemingly invented, yet poetically relatable to very real human sensations.
Library of Congress Subject Headings
Glass sculpture--Themes, motives; Glass sculpture--Technique; Empathy in art
Department, Program, or Center
School for American Crafts (CIAS)
Juan Carlos Caballero-Perez
Haendiges, Danielle, "Kinesthetic Empathy" (2014). Thesis. Rochester Institute of Technology. Accessed from
RIT – Main Campus