HER EYES DON'T align anymore, and her left hand doesn't do what she wants it to. The most mundane tasks - affixing a necklace clasp, buttoning a shirt, putting on gloves - are slow and painstaking to watch.
But she wants you to watch. She wants you to know what her life is like now.
Two years ago, a Northern Liberties woman was brutally attacked in her home by a 15-year-old boy she'd once hired for odd jobs. Artist Sharyn O'Mara recorded parts of the woman's recovery, creating the installation "Victim Impact Statement," now on display at Eastern State Penitentiary. For O'Mara, the work was a way of showing that victims continue to suffer long after the crimes have fallen from the headlines.
"These things have a public life and then people get busy again," said O'Mara, 43, also of Northern Liberties. "This is completely present in every moment of her life."
The 30-minute piece, displayed on five video screens, is largely silent. There are frequent close-ups of the woman's eyes, which no longer work in tandem. There are long slow shots of her stab wound scars. Her struggle to fasten buttons appears on three monitors.
Her full face is never shown. At the beginning, she is heard describing how she calls her injured hand "Herman," as in, "Herman drops things unless I really look after him."
"It makes it much easier to accept this condition when I can make it a third person," she tells the viewer. "That's not really me."
The crime against the woman, now 47, shocked the city. In November 2008, Derrick Cook repeatedly stabbed, beat and sexually assaulted her in her Northern Liberties home. He left her for dead, and she survived only thanks to a chance encounter - a stranger's leashed dog sat by her open door and refused to move, allowing the man to hear her soft cries for help.
Evidence linked Cook to another vicious sexual assault a few months earlier.
As the victim struggled to heal, her neighborhood came together around her. They held fundraisers to help her with medical bills. O'Mara, who knew her casually, was one of the many who offered to run errands for her.
When O'Mara saw that Eastern State was looking for art installations, she thought of something from the victim's perspective. She thought of the woman.
When O'Mara sent her an e-mail about the project, the reply was fast and strong. "I'm all yours," the woman wrote. "The concept I'd like to get across is I'm now a prisoner in my own body."
The two women spent about 20 hours filming last November. The victim shows how she has relearned to clap and tries to make shapes with her injured hand. She points out her atrophied muscles.
"It was very intense," O'Mara said. "I felt like I was really fortunate she'd share this experience and was open to having it addressed in a public way."
Sometimes, O'Mara said, it was painful to watch the woman's struggles, and she had to suppress the urge to say, "Let me get that."
"I knew this piece really had to be about the task accomplished," O'Mara said. "There was sadness to witness her struggle over and over again, but at the same time, it was a really important piece to make. It's easy to lose sight of what it means for someone to live with these injuries on a daily basis."
And there was some satisfaction. O'Mara noted the woman's dexterity improve over time.
"Because we were filming, I could notice changes that might have been too subtle to see," she said.
Last week, Cook received a sentence of 20 to 45 years behind bars for the attacks on her and the other woman. The subject of "Victim Impact Statement" rose in court to give her official victim-impact statement.
She described how 90 percent of her skin was numb, how she can no longer drive or work, how it feels as if pins and needles are exploding constantly under her skin. She can see herself touch a table or someone's hand, but she can't feel a difference. She must concentrate to lift a glass of water to her lips.
"I often feel like I'm lying on that floor," she said, "in my kitchen, in my blood, crying for help."
"Victim Impact Statement" will be on display at Eastern State Penitentiary, 2027 Fairmount Ave., until Nov. 30. Free with ESP admission of $12, $10 seniors, $8 students. Information, 215-236-3300 or www.easternstate.org.