“Mira, Mira on the wall” was the refrain that came to mind when young Mira Berlin (MFA) presented her idea 3 years ago for an art show representing the personal illness experiences of artists. After she left my office, I thought about whether the refrain’s connection to the fairy tale was applicable to the concept.
Three years later, the fairy tale reference can be discarded. A collective of European academic, art and industry leaders has produced a vivid expression of illness through the eyes of artists working in collaboration with patients.
‘Perspectives – Art, Inflammation and Me’ is an initiative designed to add a different dimension to the current understanding of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs) and their impact on patients and society. The exhibition debuted at the 9th Congress of the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation (ECCO) in Copenhagen, Denmark on February 20 with more than 100 unique pieces of art.
Mira was interested in the subjective experience of disease to showcase the potential of Fine Arts “to transcend the bounds placed on patients upon their diagnosis” and to highlight “the incredible power of images to demystify illness and reconcile us to disease, and even to death.” At the time, her thoughts were rare and she prepared a report that identified the state of illness experience as expressed in the arts. It was clear that mainstream art didn’t welcome the theme and many artists were resistant to sharing their experience through their creativity.
The courage of her ambition, however, is mirrored in this initiative. Over 200 artists from more than 40 countries around the world participated. The collection – the result of collaborations between artists and patients – provides new perspectives into some of the unknown, ignored, or misunderstood burdens associated with these conditions.
Foremost among the artists from more than 15 universities are 12 Canadian art students from Calgary’s Alberta College of Art and Design. Their work is inspired by the stories of patients with chronic conditions such as Crohn’s Disease, Psoriasis, and Rheumatoid Arthritis.
We’re privileged to have the opportunity to share all 12 images from Canada and 9 selected works from international contributors. The exhibition’s next scheduled stop is at the EULAR (European League Against Rheumatism) Congress in Paris, June 11 to 14.
While Mira has moved on with her academic and artistic career, it would be an amazing outcome to attend in Paris so I’d have the opportunity to say out loud and without fantasy, “Mira, Mira, …they’re… on the wall”.