In our debut interview from the Naked series, we sit down with Maria Pfister to discuss scars, healing and Chaka Khan.
JACY: Well firstly... How’s it feel to be naked right now?
MARIA: It’s not that bad because… I know you (laughs.)
JACY: Okay good! Then let’s begin. Can you take me through the scars you have on your body?
MARIA: Where do I start? (laughs) Let’s start with my feet. I had a bunionectomy here (points to feet), a foot reconstruction here which ended up leaving several scars, and then I was hit by a car so - this part was broken and then this piece stuck out, and then they did this to (points to thigh) put a rod in my leg. And I think that’s all from the car accident.
JACY: Can you tell me a little bit about your scars from the car accident?
MARIA: I was 18 years old and I was leaving the school with my friend Lloyd walking to his car. Probably to ditch (laughs) and then Chaka Khan’s sister came around the corner high and just… hit me.
JACY: … like Chaka Khan, Chaka Khan?
MARIA: Yeah. Chaka Khan's sister - she’s the one who hit me. She was high and she just... I don't know. This was on the first day back from Christmas break, January 2nd right out front of the school. My brand new Canon was busted and everybody at the school saw me - sprawled out, bloody, with my bones sticking out... And that's what happened. I had my tibia, fibia, and femur broken. I was in the hospital for twenty eight days and then on crutches for five months after that.
MARIA: January 2nd. The first day back from Christmas break and I was just showing off my new camera.
JACY: Can you tell me a little bit about the healing process?
MARIA: I was eighteen and very embarrassed to be seen. I felt deformed. I was a gymnast and a swimmer so I was used to being in a bathing suit or a leotard and all of a sudden my whole left side was… Ugly.
So at first I was very uncomfortable. My sister is the one who forced me to go poolside again. It was a hot summer day and she forced me to go out in shorts which I really didn’t want to do because - people were gonna see. But I went out. And after I got over that I just started letting go. The scars became part of my body.
JACY: Did that process of acceptance take years or was it definitive after the pool?
MARIA: No, acceptance took time… What does still feel scary is crossing the street. The scars I've dealt with. And I know that sometimes I tell people ‘Oh, I have these scars...’ or I I've told men I've been with - But the response has always been ‘I don’t care.’
That kind of helped.
JACY: Do you introduce the fact that you have scars before you have a partner? Is that what you mean?
MARIA: I think I- I haven’t been with a lot of partners (laughs.) But I do mention it. And it’s always been a non-issue so now I go to the beach in a bikini and I let them show. It's just part of me now.
JACY: Do you picture them on your body when you picture yourself naked?
MARIA: No. But I also don’t picture myself as fifty-six when I picture myself naked.
I picture myself in my twenties. I think this is normal. Ask almost any older person. If you're just being yourself and then you walk by a mirror it's like- who is that?
That’s not the person that I feel inside.
JACY: Wow, I never thought of that.
And would you say that overall your scars have changed you?
JACY: In what way?
MARIA: I see myself as a strong person. A stronger person. Because- they're me.
They’re what I’ve been through and it's a reflection of the life I’ve lived.
MARIA: (Crying) I think the scars that don’t show are the ones that hurt the most.
These are nothing.
JACY: God - you speak so poetically... I’m a bit in shock right now.
JACY: Well, let me ask you this. How does it feel to take these scars you never wanted people to see and incorporate them into art?
MARIA: I saw this thing about how the Japanese- when they see that something is broken they heal the cracks back together with gold. These broken objects become beautiful piece of art and I think that's a better way of thinking.