By Kathryn Cooke
I have lived much of my adult life in Canmore a small town on the eastern edge of the Canadian Rocky Mountains. I will graduate from the Alberta College of Art and Design with a Bachelor of Arts in April 2014. This follows a Bachelor of Science and a Medical Degree with a specialty in Pediatrics. I have been a practicing pediatrician for twenty-four years but have chosen to expand my mind and spirit by formally pursuing a study of fine arts. I am a material based artist with an emphasis on the tactile and the touch connecting the body to the mind and ultimately if the heart is open, to the spirit.
Using the artist’s words, summarize the artwork and how they feel it reflects the patient’s moment of meaning
Kathy’s Hope is a soft mixed medium sculpture, with an intense bodily feel. There is a narrative describing the relationship between a mother with distortions and limited mobility due to her illness of Rheumatoid Arthritis, and her daughter who is youthfully energetic. Their bond is natural and strong and carries them forth despite the ups and downs of life as well as disease. She remains engaged in life through play and sets an example for others through her positive optimism. Play and the hope for a full life is fueled by that relationship. The natural dyed textile of this sculpture references the body. The moving nature of the sculpture signifies the ups and downs of this illness and of life itself. I have highlighted some difficult features of Kathy’s story – swollen, disfigured joints, joint pain, restriction of movement. The natural wood structures echo the distortions of the joints but unites mother with child.
Using the artist’s words, describe how they felt about this experience
I was very honored to be in a position to be able to artistically express what I understood Kathy to have experienced during the 22 years she has lived with Rheumatoid Arthritis. My work was very hands on with every step of the process involving my hands. At times I was very fatigued or frustrated with the tiny stitches that were required to complete my artistic vision. But I kept telling myself, I could not give up on Kathy. I must use my hands as she was unable. I felt very close to this courageous woman and hoped that my work could help to achieve Kathy’s vision- that through this work of art, others may be given hope. I believe Kathy had several moments of meaning in her journey of life with Rheumatoid Arthritis. The initial stages of the disease were very difficult as she had a small active child at the time. “My feet and hands flared and I could barely hold a cup of coffee”. “Pain was constant and it was so hard to be a parent and do things with my daughter”. But six years ago, Kathy’s mobility improved and pain subsided. But Kathy’s final words reveal her depth of character; “At the end of the day, I want other people to see there is HOPE.”
From Kathy, living with Rheumatoid Arthritis
This artwork created by Kathryn for the Perspectives projects truly depicts what my life’s experiences have been like with RA. From a very young age my daughter has been at my side with the progression of my disease and the ups and downs of the continual flares. Life with RA is often a balancing act never quite knowing what the next day might bring. I am very fortunate to have a wonderful loving family and a health care team that provides me with the necessary care in dealing with this disease. I am honoured to have been selected as part of the Perspectives project and believe my life with RA is truly worth fighting for. Thank you Kathryn for your compassion, you have truly touched my heart!
‘Perspectives – Art, Inflammation and Me’ is an initiative that brings together more than 200 artists with patients in more than 40 countries. Together, they have created a series of paintings, sculptures, photos and other artistic expressions that vividly depict — and help others understand — the impact of immune-mediated inflammatory diseases (IMIDs). Inspired by patients’ stories, independent artists and students from a number of art universities created each piece to help more people better understand the burdens associated with some of these chronic and debilitating conditions. In addition to independent artists from all parts of the world, students from more than 15 universities coordinated by the Polytechnic University of Valencia (Universitat Politecnica de Valencia) were able to add their “Perspectives.”
Select a thumbnail to see a Canadian image and story.
More than 100 unique artistic expressions from ‘Perspectives – Art, Inflammation and Me’ debuted at the 9th Congress of the European Crohn’s and Colitis Organisation (ECCO) in Copenhagen, Denmark February 20, 2014, generously supported by AbbVie.