My social art project #colorsofMS aims to flip the script on how we view diagnosis by translating diagnostic MRI into art. When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in 2017, my painting practice took a hard right from portraiture to abstract ink. The catalyst for this change was painting an interpretation of my own diagnostic MRI, going from clinical black and white to vivid reds, golds and grey. It was deeply healing, and allowed me to really take the reigns from how I moved forward with both my healing and painting practice.
In February of 2019, I started a social art project with a global call for multiple sclerosis participants, and as of September I have completed thirty features. Each participant feature consists of three posts on Instagram: an introduction, their diagnostic MRI plus diagnosis story, and finally their MRI art reveal and outlook for the future and advice for others. Each painting is done in alcohol ink and hand-threaded, with the lesions accomplished by using a wood-burning tool and finished in gold (a nod to the Japanese practice of Kintsugi).
I would like to have completed fifty features (I have confirmed the remaining twenty) in time for Global MS awareness month and the Portland Walk for MS. My goal is to present a large-scale collage installation at the walk (and then later at either Providence or OHSU MS practices), to deliver the #colorsofms message to my local community.
I have attended the Portland Walk for MS for three years, and I was shocked to see that participants pass through rows of pharmaceutical tents prior to the walk. As a patient, this was upsetting to me, and has fueled my mission to provide a different perspective for the MS community.
It was and is important for me to provide this experience to my MS community at little to no cost. My intention is to flood the public narrative around diagnosis, show something positive and beautiful, and highlight the different ways each individual moves forward.
Funded by Portland, OR (January 2020)