Arthritis and art

Several months ago I was interviewed by a Stanford University student for a project she was working on involving art and biology. More specifically, she decided to focus on rheumatoid arthritis as an example of an auto-immune disease. The student, Catherine, had randomly found my blog and emailed me asking if I’d like to participate. She described the project a bit over email, which sounded really interesting, so I said sure, give me a call. It was maybe a week later that we spoke on the phone and I became quite impressed with Catherine and her ideas after hearing more about the project. She explained it better than I can, but basically she said that she planned to interview several people with RA and then in a series of drawings (of cells, body systems, etc.) she would use their exact words to form the images she would illustrate. As we spoke, I became very excited and inspired hearing her tell me about her studies and what she was doing. The biology and science of RA is something that I’ve been forced to learn about, you could say, and it is a constant presence in my life. I have also always loved art and seeing new ways one can express him or herself through it. Catherine asked me a lot of questions about my history of having the disease and about my life in general. She wanted to know what it feels like having RA and what my fears, hopes, and joys are (if any). We chatted for about two hours with her also tape recording me. She was a very lovely, sweet person to talk to and I feel grateful to be a part of her work at Stanford. But anyway – last week she emailed me a video clip of her presenting her project. She’s also supposed to email me scans of the actual artwork sometime in the near future, which I will post when I get them. So here’s the video clip. Arthritis and art, crazy huh?

The Art of Finding A Cure

Northeast Minneapolis, 2010
A lot of things have been going on lately related to my arthritis.  Some good, some bad, some incredibly frustrating.  “The Art of Finding A Cure” was an extremely good “arthritis thing” I participated in last Saturday night.  The event was organized by The Arthritis Foundation and included an excellent presentation by nationally renowned rheumatologist Dr. James Louie, who  profiled the life and works of famous artists who had varying forms of arthritis, including Pierre Auguste Renoir, Raoul Dufy, John Outterbridge and Henri de Toulouse- Lautrec.
Pierre Auguste Renoir, "On the Terrace," 1881, Oil on canvas

In addition to Dr. Louie’s presentation, and a nice dinner, there was also an exhibition of artwork made by children and young adults who have arthritis.  The artwork was bid on and auctioned off with the proceeds going to the Arthritis Foundation.  I had two of my own photographs in the exhibition/auction which are included in this post (black & white smoke stack photo and a photo of the construction of the new Lowry Bridge in NE Minneapolis).  I was happily surprised to see that both of my photos were bid on and sold!

Construction of the Lowry Bridge, NE Minneapolis, 2010

It was a great night and I’m really glad I went to and participated in the event.  Seeing the creativity and care put into the artwork made by the kids and young adults as well as learning more about other great artists who suffered immensely due to arthritis was quite an inspiration.  It’s wonderful to see people fighting for their passions in life and not letting arthritis or other diseases stop them from doing what they love.  I need to remind myself of the importance of this more often.