I produced a piece of work by the charity ShiftMS. They commissioned 9 artists to create work and asked each to react to a different statistic produced from research done by Genzyme Sanofi for their vsMS project. The statistic I was asked to think about was
“Since their RRMS diagnosis, more than 1/4 of respondents fear their partner may leave them”.
The more I thought about it, the more I realised that this statistic didn’t really mean anything. Certainly not without more parameters. How many of those ‘respondents’ were worried that their partner would leave them at some point in time, even fleetingly? How many people actually responded? How many of them had just started a relationship or were in a long-term relationships? None of it really mattered.
What did matter for me was the that this was about how you feel when you’re diagnosed: fear and love, fear of loss of love, loss of identity, identity change, fear of change. All those points in time and space, those coordinates that you have pinned to have actually shifted and all your relationships have moved. How you are perceived and how you see yourself have changed in one shocking instance.
You have to create a new sense of self whilst fighting to be seen as more than a statistic or an object of study.
Some of the work in progress
I referenced Leonardo da Vinci, Stevie Wonder, Galileo, The Roots, Charlotte Brontë, Beastie Boys, Poussin, Public Enemy, Simone de Beauvoir, Talking Heads, Weather Report, Susan Sontag and Joni Mitchell amongst others. All of these people are an important part of my storytelling. I wanted to take a long time to draw something that would take a lot of time to look at. There are many allegorical references to loss of space and time, fear, loss and love: hidden dial-less compasses, lost histories in the postcards of a life well-lived, a nod to a carefree existence before diagnosis within the section of toys, a record collection titled by fear, loss and longing, books that point to identity, references to space and time and fragility.
In the top right a nod to Poussin, Vanitas paintings and living breathing life represented by the plant.
Many references to other artists and inspiration
The main character is a reference to Leonardo da Vinci’s La belle ferronnière; the defiant stare breaking the fourth wall whilst she disappears into the background, slowly becoming one of her objects instead of using them for status.
The main character
Not much of this is autobiographical apart from the photos of people and pets who are incredibly important to me. They are family both alive and gone. This was the only part that was very hard to draw. I sobbed through most of that section. It was a bittersweet experience.
The autobiographical section
She was ready to deny the existence of space and time rather than admit that love might not be eternal
This piece required a lot of stamina and will to complete, like a huge jigsaw puzzle.It was very meditative but ultimately a complete joy. It’s been framed and exhibited at a large medical annual MS symposium and I hope it gets a more public viewing in the near future.