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Awareness Art Gallery

       The following Awareness Art Gallery displays images created by artists with the Migraine disease.  Such artists include Vincent Van Gogh, Seurat, Lewis Carroll, M.A.G.N.U.M. founder Michael John Coleman, Janet McKenzie, and others.

       Vincent Van Gogh, the awe-inspiring Dutch impressionist, suffered from
starry night
"Starry Night"
Vincent Van Gogh
violent Migraines, or "sick headaches," as they were then called.  Migraines at that time were perceived as mild insanity.  Therefore, treatment of his Migraines was both ineffective and debilitating, and, in fact, worsened his condition.  Van Gogh's famous painting, "Starry Night," was
eden concert
"Eden Concert"
George Seurat
painted at the St. Remy Asylum in France in 1889, where he was being treated for his "Migraine personality."

       Sometimes artists affect how doctors articulate visual phenomena, such as specific sensory hallucinations, a.k.a., "Migraine aura."  Some medical researchers refer to scotomata, or scintillating aura, in Migraine as the Seurat Effect!  George Seurat, a French impressionist and believed Migraine sufferer, developed the pointalistic technique, seen in his many oil paintings, including "Courbevoie Bridge," circa 1886.
 
silver print of alice
"Silver Print of Alice"
Lewis Carroll

       One of the more interesting artist-Migraine relationships is the fine-art photographer and author Lewis Carroll, whose fantasy books include Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking Glass and What Alice Found There. One of his albumen prints, circa 1862, is of his niece, Alice. His books were heavily influenced by his Migraine experience. For example, a well-accepted interpretation of the Cheshire Cat is as a symbol of the Migraine disease itself. The Cheshire Cat has a tremendous influence on Alice's adventures and only reveals itself to Alice. Remember: Migraine is an "invisible" disorder. "Well! I've often seen a cat without a grin," thought Alice; "But a grin without a cat! It's the most curious thing I ever saw in all my life!" Like Alice's Cheshire-Cat who sat in a tree revealing himself only to Alice, he nonetheless had great impact on her daily travels, as Migraines do on individuals who suffer from them. As anyone knows who suffers from this disease, Migraine, as aggressively debilitating as it is, is often not readily visible, and is often called the "invisible handicap." Other references in Carroll's adventures include Alice being blinded by the moonlight (Migraine sufferers are extremely light-sensitive), and the many references to hallucinations and drugs: "One pill makes you smaller, one pill makes you larger, the pills mother gives you do nothing at all," observed the Cheshire-Cat.
tranquilities corner
"Tranquilities Corner"
Michael John Coleman

       As far back as grade school, award-winning fine art photographer and MA.G.N.U.M. founder Michael John Coleman recalls the beautiful, but ominous, storm clouds looming through the vaulted classroom windows at times when he was stricken with severe head pain from his Migraines, brought on, in large part, by the changing atmospheric pressure of the stormfront itself. His award-winning silverprints echo those memories in dramatic landscapes. As the Washington Post put it: "His prints are eerie and interesting. The images have a dream-like familiarity about them. His strength comes from his severe use of black and white." Coleman's sensitivity bright light, a common Migraine trigger, ironically known in medical terms as 'photosensitivity,' led to his retreating to the darkroom. It was in these little rooms, in the dim amber light, that Coleman excelled, becoming well-known for his unique use of alternative process photography.
pacific potomac
"Pacific Potomac"
Michael John Coleman
His aversion to powerful flash strobe lights in the studio drove him to work with hot lights designed to focus the viewer on the mood or impression of the image rather than on rendering detail. Coleman's career as a professional artist was conducive to one with an episodic disorder like Migraine. With two to four acute attacks per week, controlling one's work environment is critical to a good quality of life. The economic strain of being uninsurable because of his pre-existing condition, Migraine, and the Migraine-induced isolation from his healthy colleagues, made Coleman realize that learning as much as possible about his handicap would do the most to gain him a better quality of life. The pain and isolation experienced by Coleman, along with millions of other Migraine sufferers, can be, in turn, experienced by viewing Coleman's numerous award-winning figure studies and dramatic landscape prints. Coleman noted that "After having Migraines monumentally disrupt my life on two occasions, namely an ended marriage and studio-closing, I decided enough was enough. I remember severe attacks that lasted for 19 days, and the acute pain was so intense that I couldn't sleep for four days. These are nightmarish memories, and it became very important for me to fight back. The logical weapon to use was my art, and, as an artist, I intend to use visual art skill to uncover the stealthy nature of this invisible disease." And allied with his best friend of the past decade, they set out to do just that.
the vigil
"The Vigil"
Janet McKenzie
       Janet McKenzie is award-winning New York artist, currently based in Vermont, educated at the Frei Academie, The Hague, Netherlands. Janet is a member of The National Society of Mural Painters and The National Association of Women Artists. She has been awarded many professional appointments and commissions, has been featured in numerous articles, and is carried in many prestigious collections and galleries around the world. McKenzie has suffered from Migraines all of her life. McKenzie's Migraines have had a great impact on her art. Her images deal with women, isolation and loneliness, all associated with Migraines. (Over 80% of Migraine sufferers are women.) In the words of the artist: "As a lifelong Migraine sufferer, and artist, I ponder just what role living with Migraines has played with regard to my work. I have always created imagery of women and it is clear to me that the figure is presented monumentally. She is massive and I wonder at my own need to create such an image of strength. Certainly, anyone who has experienced Migraines, or loved someone who suffers from them, knows how helpless you feel when they strike. Mine come in blinding strikes of pain, in two or three beats of pain, in one spot. They feel like lightening that has gotten trapped in my head and is trying to flash and burn its way out. During these attacks, motion is impossible because movement brings the flashes on, worse. The eyes react by becoming like sandpaper and my head heads downward toward by shoulder, for warmth, comfort, support, I don't know why. When I was a child, a little girl, my family told me I had 'brain fever' when these attacks would come on, yet I was never taken to a doctor. I was told I brought my brain fever on myself because I did not like to wear hats in the winter, so I have felt since childhood that I was responsible for the pains I would get in my head. As I look at my work from the perspective of living with Migraines, I see imagery that appears impervious to many things. The subjects seem to be more than capable of preventing anything from hurting, altering or dominating them. Perhaps in some respects I've built them, whether in paint or clay, in the way I'd like to be, too powerful to be altered by many things, blinding 'beats' of pain being one of them."
bamboo
"Bamboo"
Trevor Southey

       Trevor Southey was born in Zimbabwe (formerly Rhodesia), Africa in 1940. His African heritage can be traced to European colonists who settled in Cape Town, South Africa in the 17the Century. In 1965 he immigrated to the United States, retaining a deep sense of his African and British origins. His formal training includes two years at Brighton College of Art in Sussex, England; a year in Durban, South Africa; and two degrees obtained from Brigham Young University, Utah (1967 and 1969). He taught at the University through 1976 and has since pursued his career independently. In 1978 he married Elaine Fish of Utah. Their mutual vision and their four children became a vital and critical part of his life and work. For fifteen years, together they evolved a personal sense of place and beauty in Alpine Utah. Until his recent move to California, where he currently resides in San Francisco with two of his children, he had concentrated his professional experience in the Rocky Mountain west. His work is included in several institutional and private collections in the United States and throughout the world. His media include drawing, printmaking, painting, and sculpture. Several major commissions in various parts of the country have dominated his production in the last few years, demonstrating a sharply increasing interest in his work. Migraines have touched Trevor and his family.


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All information offered on the Web Site, whether by a lay person or a health care professional, is for educational purposes only and should not, in any way, be construed as medical advice, diagnosis, or recommendation for treatment. While this information can provide you with a basis for discussion with your health care team, it cannot take the place of professional medical care. Please consult your practitioner.
1999 - 2012 and all other years MAGNUM, Inc. All rights reserved.
Artwork Michael John Coleman, Janet McKenzie, or Cara Weston. All other artists noted by 1976-2012