I’d like to introduce you to Elizabeth Jameson. I first became aware of Elizabeth through social media – both on Instagram and Twitter where I have been following her journey as a neuroartist for a while. This week, I had the great pleasure of talking to her over Skype.
A public interest lawyer, Elizabeth was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis-MS in 1992. After what she calls an existential crisis (noting that sounds much better than depression) she found her way to art and began a journey of transforming her own brain scans into images that challenge how society views the brain, disability and illness.
Below are some of my favorite pieces of Elizabeth’s, and I encourage you to spend some time on her website looking at all of her images at jamesonfineart.com
I asked Elizabeth how she keeps going – both making art and getting it out there despite her illness. She replied with an infectious laugh, “I’m brilliant and beautiful. After a while, depression gets boring for me. I need to create.” As a quadriplegic she does require assistance and artist Catherine Monahon, her current studio assistant, explained that Elizabeth works full time on her art and is the “legs” of every project. Catherine notes that she, as the assistant, is “running after her ideas and trying to put clothes on them so they can be implemented .” What a great team effort.
Recently Elizabeth gave a TedX talk that you can watch below. You’ll be amazed at the depth and breadth of Elizabeth’s work and the description of her journey.
What’s up for Elizabeth now?
I’m grateful for her choosing to spend some time with me along the way.
It's been two weeks since I traveled to Washington D.C. to take part in my first ever Art of Neuroscience Exhibition at the Society for Neuroscience annual convention with 30,000 attendees. In a word - amazing.
The art exhibition was fairly small with only 7 booths and each of us had something really unique to offer. Links to my fellow artists below if you'd like to learn more about them. And, as the newbie at the show, I have to say they were all kind and helpful!
The best part of the show for me was the response to my work by neuroscientists. People from all over the world came by my booth and talked to me about my work and appreciated it. And by now, pieces of mine have been carried as far as Japan, Turkey, Spain, Brazil and Greece.
It was an incredibly gratifying experience and I hope to be able to attend next year as well in San Diego, California - my old home state.
In the meantime, here is what's on my reading list:
Yep, I'm one of those artists who has a day-job. I work as a Sponsored Research Officer at a small liberal arts college in Western Massachusetts. Most folks don't actually know what that means so for the non-academics who may be reading this I explain it like this: I'm the person at the college who helps the faculty submit grant proposals that fund their research.
While doing this I get to read lots of interesting proposals and in all fields: science, social sciences and the humanities. Much of it is waaaayyyy too technical for me to grasp - especially in the sciences - but reading all of the proposals certainly feeds me in a unique way. And, for a person who got 'C's' in chemistry and physics in college, it helps me be less afraid and more appreciative of science.
What does all this have to do with me as an artist? Plenty, especially since I have single-mindedly pursued the making of neuro art for the last two years. I've been encouraged by a neuroscience professor at my college and have been blown away by the response to my work from folks in the field. It's one of the reasons I'm heading for the SfN Art of Neuroscience show in just two weeks. I wouldn't even have known about the show without the professor telling me. The conference draws 30,000 professionals and students each year - wow, that's a lot of brainiacs in one place.
To tell you the truth, as a non-science neuro-geek, I'm also a little nervous about actually meeting so many people who study the brain. Doing a lot of reading about science that is written for the non-scientist helps.
Below is a list of some of my current favorite reads (and listens while I'm in the studio):
Because the day job and artist life keep me very busy, I don't actually blog very often. I do, however, post pretty constantly to social media. If you want to stay current with what I'm up to follow me on Instagram, Facebook or Twitter and definitely join my Inner Circle email list for first offers and news of special events.
This last week has been a bad one for sleep. Insomnia is a problem I've had off and on my entire life. Sometimes I can track it to a specific cause like that 3pm cup of coffee or the chocolate I had in the evening. Sometimes it is my anxious brain spinning out of control - rewriting the many to do lists I have - over and over in my head, or worrying about the thing I didn't do... Do you suffer too? Here is advice from the Sleep Foundation on What to do When you Can't Sleep.
I've learned that instead of tossing and turning all night, I am a happier person if I get up and do something. This week I worked on a rainbow brain embroidery until 4am two nights in a row. Embroidery is relaxing for me and BONUS! I feel like I'm getting some work done - so, instead of just being tired the next day, I feel accomplished and tired.
And, sometimes my very handsome cat, Ben, keeps me company.
What do you do when you can't sleep? I'd love to hear your story in the comments below.
Recently I was treated to spending an afternoon with my friend Linda and her daughter Monica. Linda and I first connected at a shared workplace when she saw my very first two Neuro Art pieces and asked if I could create a piece to her specifications. In particular, she wanted the brain to face the other direction. My first two were left facing and she wanted a right facing brain, explaining that she had a special connection, as her daughter had a hemispherectomy when she was young and had the right half of her brain removed.
It was at least a year later when I actually got to meet Monica, an incredibly happy, engaging, and gregarious 29 year old woman who leads an active life in pursuit of both what makes her happy, and in service to others. Below is an edited 16 minute interview with Monica and her Mom about her surgery, her life and what she wants you to know about being disabled. It is missing a few key bits of information which got edited out: most importantly, Monica has worked for the last 9 years in a hospital as a toy cleaner - she goes in 3 days a week and loves her job. She also loves horse back riding! And, as you'll hear she lives a "happy, happy, happy life!"
Thanks to both Monica and her mom, Linda for sharing their story with me. Due to privacy concerns I am not sharing a photo of them but above is the piece that I made for them and that hangs in their home.
In case you prefer to read the interview - a transcript pdf file is below:
In late July we packed up the car and headed for Canada. I’m lucky enough to live relatively close to the border and it’s a beautiful drive through Western Mass and Vermont. First, we headed to Quebec City where my partner in life led an Improv workshop – you can read about his interesting work here. We also met up with friends, ate a lot of good food, saw some art, and walked the city. If you haven’t been there yet, put it on your list of must-see cities.
Next, we headed to Montreal where I got to meet my Instagram friend and fellow brain project artist Monica Brinkman at the solo show of another artist, Tina Struthers. I’m in love with both these women’s art work and they’ve been a wonderful source of information and support about the Brain Project, having both participated last year. Heaps of gratitude to them for their generosity of spirit. Their Brain project brains pictured below along with a photo of Monica in front of Tina’s work.
Last stop Toronto, where we had only a day and a half in which to see as many brains as possible in the streets. The Brain Project raises funds and awareness for Alzheimer’s care and research. See my last blog post for my personal story about the brain I created in loving memory of my stepmother.
Below are just a few of my favorite brains I snapped along the way, including me with Mei Chan-Long – another generous spirit who came and met me at her fabulous metal brain sculpture. Yes, we do have our feet in the water!
It was a thrill to see my brain on display in the Distillery District and I got to meet and talk with a few admirers along the way. The brains are on display until August 31st. If you have any chance of getting to Toronto before them, I highly recommend giving yourself a couple of days to journey through the streets. My partner dubbed it the Brain Project Tour of Toronto. ALSO, visit The Brain Project website here and VOTE for the People's Choice Award. I'll leave you with a few photos of my Brain below.
In exactly 9 days I will be arriving in Toronto where I will get to see my Brain Project sculpture on the streets of the city - live and in person! How thrilling to see my first international exhibition and to be a part of this large effort to increase awareness about, and funding for, Alzheimer's care and research.
This is the 2nd year of the Brain Project an awareness building and fundraising effort launched by the Baycrest Foundation. 100 artists were selected to design a brain sculpture for the project and their work is now displayed on the streets of Toronto through the end of August. In September, the brains go on sale to benefit Baycrest programs.
I could not be more thrilled to be participating this year. Photos of my completed brain sculpture - both sides - are below. Read on to find out more about my stepmother Elaine who was the inspiration behind my involvement.
My piece is titled 'Not Forgotten'. It started as a collage of fabric and was then embellished with hand embroidery, beads and trim exploring the thread connecting past and present. It was inspired by Elaine who suffered from dementia in her final years. The last time I saw her she didn’t recognize me. After asking for my name, she smiled and said : “Laura… that’s one of my favorite names.” I knew then that somewhere deep inside her she had not forgotten.
Elaine was a fearless explorer and traveler and below are some photos that are just a snapshot of her intrepid spirit. They were taken in 1986 when she embarked on an around-the-world trip with her best friend Sandra, stopping off in Pakistan to see me and my husband where we were living for two years. During the visit we traveled up the rugged Karakorum Highway to the mountainous town of Gilgit. A trip that not many western women in their 60s would have taken. Did I say fearless? I can't think of a better word for her.
I once asked her what made her so brave and she told me that after she lost my father suddenly in a plane crash she realized the worst thing she could imagine had already happened to her, and to be afraid of anything after that was pointless.
I miss her still...
Visit my piece on the Brain Project, vote for your favorite artist brain and donate too, if you can, to this important work.
And, thanks for being here and sharing in my journey. If you're not already in my Inner Circle you can join here! - I send out a newsy email about once a month.
Chronicling process - from start to finish - click on each photo to see the caption and let me know if you have any questions! It's a long, slow process but I LOVE every moment of it.
I just returned from attending the Brain Health Fair 2017 in Boston, sponsored by the American Academy of Neurology and I learned SO much - especially about the prevention of Alzheimer's and dementia. As a 60 year old woman, my interest is very personal and I wish I had this information 30 years ago.
Here are my most important takeaways:
There is of course so much more to learn and know about brain health but these were my big takeaways and now I am heading off to the gym, planning to shop for all the right foods on my way home, and signing up for that dance class soon!!
For more information visit The Women's Alzheimer's Movement founded by Maria Shriver, a force committed to finding out why Alzheimer’s discriminates against women.
Chronicling my adventures as a Neuro Artist. I love to make work centered on our magnificent brains and learn about how it all works in the process..