How does your artwork navigate the divide between science and art?
My artwork lives at the intersection of science, art, and technology. Connecting these communities has given me so much joy and enabled me to challenge how so many people looking at disease from various perspectives see themselves, their work, and their community. I am inspired by the brain’s ability to change and adapt; I aim to expand the conventional definition of portraiture by challenging viewers to question what it means to be flawed, what it means to be human.
This quest to understand the brain was inspired by my diagnosis with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1991. Undergoing numerous brain scans to track the progression of my disease, I initiated a deep fascination with the architecture of the brain and began focusing my art practice on reinterpreting these frightening yet mesmerizing images. My images serve as a starting point to describe the ever-changing experience of living with a progressive disease.
Tell us about your experience with patienthood. How has art helped you throughout your journey?
I have progressive multiple sclerosis and I am currently a quadriplegic. I have found that the experience of being a patient can diminish one’s sense of self. My goal is to help reverse this marginalization that is both self-imposed and reinforced by society at large through my artwork. This year, I am exploring how technology and design principles ignite conversations among patients, healthcare professionals, scientists, and caregivers.
As someone with a degenerative disease who has spent countless hours in waiting rooms, I am familiar with the feeling of being alone in a room full of people. There is such untapped potential for building community in those long, drawn out moments. In my past career in healthcare law, I also worked with medical researchers and health providers; I have come to understand and appreciate their perspectives. My current vision combines patient-centered design, evocative artwork, and powerful narratives. Art has the unique power to restore compassion and bridge connections between people who do not have opportunities to engage with one another.
Tell us more about your goal of creating a “visual language of illness.” How can visual arts impact how healthcare is practiced in the future?
Art installations in healthcare settings, teaching universities, and research centers can connect people, and, at the same time, improve the overall quality of life for people living with disease. Integrating the visual arts into healthcare settings contributes to a greater understanding of our shared sense of humanity, and the inevitability of disease within all of us. My visual vocabulary has been generated by my own experiences with progressive MS. Through the utilization of imagery, the “visual language of illness” can only grow more expansive and nuanced, allowing medical professionals to gain a better understanding of the people they care for, while also providing a space for patients to find compassion for themselves.
To learn more about Elizabeth Jameson, visit www.jamesonfineart.com