The University of Wisconsin Press

Art / Health & Medicine


Hidden Agenda
Carol Chase Bjerke


Intensely personal and unique art that gives voice to an unspeakable medical topic


Hidden Agenda documents Carol Chase Bjerke’s large-scale multifaceted art project about living with an ostomy after treatment for colorectal cancer. An ostomy is a surgical reconfiguration of the intestine to create an opening in the abdominal wall through which the body wastes pass. Addressing quality-of-life issues ranging from questions of identity and privacy to specifics of management and self-care, this book is about relentlessness and repetition and time measured in medical supplies. Bjerke conveys vast amounts of information and provides an entree into long-overdue discussions about what many would designate as a crude and outdated medical procedure that is still used as state-of-the-art treatment for a variety of gastrointestinal diseases. Intensely personal yet tastefully, thoughtfully, and beautifully wrought, Bjerke’s artwork not only provides one woman’s story about living with an ostomy but also serves as inspiration, affirmation, and support for patients, family members, artists, and everyone interested in the healing power of creativity.


“Bjerke’s poignant creative work gives the person living with an ostomy, supportive family and friends, and involved professionals provocative insight into the reality of this life-altering process. It invites, equips, and informs all to participate in this gut-wrenching process in a heartfelt manner.”—Lana R. M. Chandler, RN, BS


Carol Chase Bjerke has been a self-employed artist and teacher since 1976 and is currently an instructor of book arts and photography at the University of Wisconsin School of the Arts at Rhinelander and the Center for Photography at Madison. Her artwork has been exhibited internationally and is in numerous private and public collections, including the Kohler Art Library in Madison, the Special Collections in the Golda Meir Library at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee, and the National Museum of Women in the Arts in Washington, D.C.


Distributed for Borderland Books


• The Hidden Agenda art installation will be exhibited at the International Museum of Surgical Sciences in Chicago from October 30, 2009, to January 15, 2010.

• Carol Chase Bjerke’s Web site is

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The cover of Bjerke's book is red, pink and white, with the appearance of being wrapped in clear plastic.

March 2009

LC: 2008932129
96 pp.    11 x 8 1/2  
65 color photos

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