Nearly one in two people will have a chronic condition within their lifetime. Chronic conditions include cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, migraines, mental illnesses, autism, and many more.(1) Many debilitating illnesses can start out as an invisible illness and progress significantly over time, then becoming a visible illness. Several artists throughout history have had to deal with invisible illnesses, yet are known for their amazing works they produced, despite their condition. One of the most famous artists Vincent Van Gogh, a Dutch post-impressionist painter known for works such as “Starry Night”, suffered from mental illnesses.(2) An even more severe example of an artist battling an invisible illness is the Norwegian Symbolism painter, Edvard Munch, and his famous work “The Scream”[Der Schrei der Natur (The Scream of Nature)].
“ My fear of life is necessary to me, as is my illness,” Munch once wrote. “Without anxiety and illness, I am a ship without a rudder…my sufferings are part of myself and my art. They are indistinguishable from me and their destruction would destroy my art.” (3)
Despite their debilitating conditions, both artists were able to pour these daily struggles into their art, creating masterpieces in their time.
My entire life has involved invisible medical issues from being diagnosed with Juvenile Rheumatoid arthritis at one-year-old, an autoimmune disease.(4) This had a severe effect on my own personal imagery of my own body growing into adulthood. Others commonly believe that, because the exterior did not reflect the damaged interior, I did not qualify as chronically ill or disabled. This affects me even now and has been a constant influence in the imagery of who I am, what I choose to depict, and how I bring myself into my work. I create work to bring to light the daily struggles of people like myself that a healthy society does not acknowledge.
Just as Van Gogh and Munch used art as their medium of artistic therapy and expression of raw life, I use art as my outlet for my pain and to portray the stark prejudice against many others like myself dealing with an invisible illness. As an artist, I am able to use my medium to turn a negative aspect of my life into a positive message. Painting my images allows for vibrant color and helps me explore different levels of texture, from flat paint to chunks of paint, each evoking a different mood and message. Even the choice of color in my overall palette is associated with evoking a specific set of moods. The way I work in paint setting time limitations also allows for quick decision-making and increases confidence in stroke placement in the application of my medium in a bold manner.
- Edvard Munch: Beyond the Scream, (2006) Arthur Lubow, Smithsonian Magazine, http://www.smithsonianmag.com/arts-culture/edvard-munch-beyond-the-scream-111810150/?no-ist