For the average young person, your 13th birthday is a big year because you’re finally a teenager. You’re rolling with the big dogs – just living and enjoying life. But for one teen, it brought life altering news.
Nicki Muller was diagnosed with bone cancer (osteosarcoma) at age 13. After a year-long battle with the disease, she won. Not only did she kick bone cancer’s ass into remission, but thanks to the Make-A-Wish Foundation Muller also met and became close friends with fashion photographer Nigel Barker.
Her wish was to be a super model for a day and Barker was the one to make it happen.
The two have since worked on several projects together. “Rays,” a collaboration of black and white photos of Muller taken by Barker and then artistically altered by the now 21-year-old, is the duo’s most recent work.
Check out our interview with Muller, who despite developing brain cancer at age 20 continues to live life to the fullest. (She’s bomb. Seriously.)
What was it like working with Nigel? First with the Make-A -Wish Foundation and now again with this new project?
Working with Nigel Barker was the start of many makings. We began working together when I was 13, and battling bone cancer. I got to meet Nigel and his wife Crissy when she was pregnant! Our relationship began when Nigel and his wife Crissy did my hair, clothes and photos [for my Make-A-Wish model shoot]. There was a connection between us right away. It's hard to describe why we connected the way we did. I was quite young when I met him, but we felt it. We felt [there was] a reason.
I thank Nigel Barker for all his help and ability to support my creation and work. Nigel has put sure power within us. I can't thank him enough.
Nigel asked you to be a part of his book Beauty Equation. Tell us about that experience.
He used my words, my ideas, and showed me in the work! I was super overwhelmed that he involved me in it. It was a huge deal for me to be a part of it all.
How has your battle with cancer changed you or affected your outlook on life?
Right after Nigel used me for Beauty Equation things for me changed quickly. My work was darker. My work lost its initial color. It was dark and black and intense. Color changed me and my work had a lot of questions. Questions about the work I was making that didn't give me real reasons why yet. [In April 2011] I was diagnosed with high-grade gliomas (vascular tumors that occur from excess growth of blood vessels) and my work stopped. My life stopped. My world stopped. Then I continued. After my Bone to Brain 90.13.20 solo exhibit in Nov. 2011, I showed my work a new life.
Can you elaborate on this?
After the first show there was only more for me to continue with. To keep going. I've made dark work and I've made new work – a bunch of new creations that are all about time, space, and experience. I keep going. This is the livelihood of my living…my making. I need the power to make. I need the work. This is what I do. I make work. This is my life. I am proud of it.
What is one message you'd like to share with the world?
I am quoted by a few words:
- "I make work.”
- “There is power in this life."
- "I am alive."
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