Announcing 'A Lick and a Promise' by Sara J. Winston

Candor Arts is delighted to announce the forthcoming artist book A Lick and a Promise by photographic artist Sara J. Winston

Sara J. Winston — artist and author of  A Lick and a Promise.

Sara J. Winston — artist and author of A Lick and a Promise.

“We assume the common things will always be here, so we tell ourselves we’ll deal with them another day.” - Lucia Perillo, I’ve Heard the Vultures Singing: Field Notes on Poetry, Illness, and Nature. Trinity University Press, 2011


A Lick and a Promise is a visual journal of Sara J. Winston’s interactions with her parents and her partner in the Hudson Valley region of New York. Each manages a chronic physical condition believed to be caused by a mix of genetic and environmental factors. Winston’s photographs explore struggles in wellness and debility as each maneuvers their respective invisible illness—invisible illness meaning conditions that significantly impair normal activities of daily living yet show no obvious outward signs of sickness.  

In her mid-twenties Winston was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, a manageable yet unpredictable chronic disease of the central nervous system. Erratic symptoms of her illness include bouts of temporary double vision, body numbness and fatigue. Shortly after learning of her condition, she returned to her native New York to be near family.  

The photographs are bookended by text, including a piece written by Winston’s parents, Steven and Marla, about the experience and impact of their daughter’s diagnosis.

This publication is scheduled to be released on Thursday, July 6, 2017 at a reception held at Filter Photo in Chicago.

From  A Lick and a Promise , photograph by Sara J. Winston

From A Lick and a Promise, photograph by Sara J. Winston

On A Lick and a Promise:

Words from the author

Throughout my childhood, whenever my mother tucked me into bed, she would ask me the same series of questions: Had I taken good care of myself throughout the day? Washed my face and brushed my teeth properly before bedtime? Or had I merely given myself a lick and a promise? According to the Oxford English Dictionary, the idiom a lick and a promise is at least 200 years old. It means a “slight and hasty wash with promise or intention to do a better job sometime later.” At first, this nightly critique confused and frustrated me; later, it became an endearing mantra. It symbolized a loving and maternal hope that proper physical care might allow my health and well-being to prosper. As a young child, I saw my parents as immortal and unburdened by health concerns, and I imagined that I too would inherit an unburdened body.

After I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), I began to think of my mother’s idiom as it relates to holistic self-care in cases of chronic physical conditions. MS is a condition in which the immune system eats away at the protective covering of nerves in the brain and spinal cord, disrupting communication between the brain and the body. There are four types of MS and despite which type, no two people have the same experience of the disease. My symptoms have included double vision, numbness in the extremities, chronic pain in the torso and legs, and bouts of inexplicable fatigue. When enduring a chronic condition, one cannot afford to address issues with inadequate care. The body requires, and in some cases demands, extra care and attention. For me this means constant monitoring by medical practitioners, monthly infusions of immune suppressing drugs, and when possible, the avoidance of foods and activities that may prompt an over-reactive immune response in the body.

As a person living with an invisible condition, one that can remain hidden until I choose to disclose, I often wonder if we give others the consideration they deserve or if we too often are hasty in social engagements with humanity. I wonder what it means to promise to do a better job later when it comes to health and the body. It turns out my parents are not unencumbered by health concerns, but have always had chronic conditions of their own to manage. It has created greater empathy between us, as we each try to do better than a lick and a promise.  

About the Author:

Sara J. Winston uses the language of photography and photobooks to explore representations of illness and wellness caused by chronic disease. She earned her MFA in Photography from Columbia College Chicago in 2014. Winston’s work has been exhibited nationally and internationally including The Corcoran Gallery of Art in Washington, DC and the Pingyao International Photography Festival in China. Her publications are in the collection of The Joan Flasch Artists’ Book Collection at The School of the Art Institute in Chicago, IL and The Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Learn More about Sara's work at: