Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who struggled all her life with the aftereffects of physical trauma—childhood polio and a near-fatal bus accident that shattered her pelvis and broke her spinal column—once wrote, “I’ve done my paintings well. . . and they have a message of pain in them.”
Pain is not quite as in evidence in the works of noted Philadelphia painter and printmaker Gerard “Jerry” Di Falco, except in the quartet of assemblages on wood he calls, “Pain.” The painted and gilded animal skulls and bones—and a seed pod resembling a twisted spine—hang in the ninth floor Cherry Street apartment in Philadelphia that he shares with partner of 26 years, Ron Funk.
Di Falco, whose work is displayed in dozens of museums and private collections around the world, has been in almost constant pain for the past 35 years, the result of degenerative disk disease, including multiple herniations, scoliosis, and stenosis. He also has reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), sometimes called complex regional pain syndrome, a rare disorder in which the nervous system sends punishing nerve impulses to parts of the body, often the extremities, causing burning pain, touch and temperature sensitivity and muscle weakness.