Finding Humor in Disease and Turning it into Jaw-Dropping Art: Elizabeth Jameson

Published on by Matthew Mewhorter.

© Elizabeth Jameson

Okay brace yourselves, this blog post isn't about cancer (collective screams)! But I just had to feature Elizabeth Jameson, a friend I made when I was at the Stanford Medicine X conference in April. Though I was diagnosed with cancer and she was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS), we both took the same medicine: art.

When I first met Elizabeth, she was surrounded by a large crowd of devoted fans. She had actually found my work first, and sought me out the night previous. Jameson, a Stanford alumni and once powerful attorney, turned to art after she was diagnosed with the disease that would eventually confine her to a wheelchair.

Elizabeth took her brain scans and transformed them into stunning works of art, which are now displayed in little known places like Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, Berkley, and several other locations.  Oh yeah, and she also does Ted Talks..no big whoop. It is an honor to get to know such a powerful mind and artist, and even more of an honor to feature her jaw-dropping art...some of the most compelling stuff I've seen in a long time.  

But let me shut up so you can read her blog and see her work:

I am an artist living with MS, and I transform my brain scans to create work that celebrates the imperfect brain and body. Through my work I explore the complexities of living life with an illness and disability – the depression, struggles, celebrations, hopes, and humor. Yes, humor. While typically sardonic, dark, or “inappropriate” to some, it is humor all the same! Life with MS can be hysterical(ly funny). This is not to say it is a fun ride, or to paint happy faces on our experiences. My art has allows me to glimpse humor by pushing myself to see the world through different vantage points. This is what Cancer Owl has done with his comics; it is what every artist has done who lives with illness, disability, or socio-culturally imposed imperfections. Turning the typical imagery or expectations upside down is where humor lives. In that spirit, I'd like to share two of my images where I unexpectedly found humor in my imperfect brain.

Bird Brain
 

© Elizabeth Jameson

This image still makes me laugh, even though I discovered it years ago. The spots that you see are lesions in my lower brain stem that probably have resulted in my quadriplegia. Not really laughing material… but, they also look like birds. Growing up, my siblings always referred to me as a bird brain. Well, I refuse to confirm or deny it on the grounds that it may incriminate me… but I do have documentation of it now, so take what you will from that.

Good Egg

© Elizabeth Jameson

This series also made me laugh when I created them. I'm not really sure why. My studio assistant thinks it's because there's so much classification of someone as a “good egg” or a “bad egg.” And since my imperfect brain might be assumed to be in column B, this series pushes back. But maybe explaining the joke sort of ruins it… so I'll let you decide why/if you might find the Good Egg series amusing.
 

Everyone knows humor is important. So why not put more of it out there in the world? Especially when we are dealing with illness… which we all inevitably will, in some way, whether it is you, your loved ones, or someone you know. So, why not see the humor in this crazy ride??