IJMSC Cover Art
Since our January/February 2019 issue, IJMSC features artwork by people with MS on each cover. By sharing this art with our readers, our hope is to 1) spotlight the patient as the most important person on the MS care team and 2) show how the experience of the disease can be expressed and possibly even alleviated through art. We thank the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA), as well as the artists, for allowing us to use artwork from the MSAA Art Showcase program in this way.
IJMSC, in collaboration with the Multiple Sclerosis Association of America (MSAA), is proud to shine a spotlight on a selection of artwork created by people with MS. The works of art are collected and featured annually in MSAA’s Art Showcase, and further featured as cover art on issues of IJMSC. View the PDF to enjoy a selection of works featured in an art exhibit at the 2023 CMSC Annual Meeting, held May 31-June 3, 2023 in Aurora, CO.
Magic in the Mountains
by Kim Ayon – Port Angeles, WA, USA
From the artist: "I started painting watercolors a little over one year ago and that was it: I found “the one,” my true passion! While a challenging medium as it is, I find it even more of a challenge with MS. I tend to drop things a lot, including my paintbrushes. Nevertheless, I sometimes end up with a happy surprise and this just adds to the many reasons why I love this medium. The translucency of color on paper, the swirls of color exploding from the brush into the water: Pure BLISS!"
by Stanley Gilbert – Rupert, VT
From the artist: "After retiring as a chemical engineer, an art teacher friend offered to teach me to draw. She was impressed with my ability and I was surprised. I have always enjoyed art museums and studying the masters. I went to San Miguel Allende in Mexico to continue drawing and learn to paint. That was the beginning of my journey into painting and it soon became my avocation. I have also studied sculpting having access to marble in Vermont."
Pockets of Light
by Shana Stern - Los Angeles, CA
From the artist: "A former writer and dancer, I began painting when I could no longer write or dance due to a multitude of symptoms from multiple sclerosis. Unable to hold a paintbrush, I created my own method of painting, using my fingers.
Music triggers the experience of moving colors in my mind, so I listen to nothing but one song while I work, trying to translate what I see onto the canvas.
I utilize highly texturized mediums and materials which cause light to shimmer, bounce and change colors depending on the angle you see a painting from – so the paint seems to “move.”
Attempting to make something beautiful as I use my fingers to make the paint dance across the canvas, is my way of fighting back against the daily uncontrollable issues I have with my MS. Through my art, I now tell stories with paint. And I once again dance – with my hands."
by Diana de Avila - Osprey, FL
About the artist: Diana de Avila is an award-winning artist who has acquired savant syndrome and synesthesia. Her artistic gift arrived suddenly and explosively after a relapse of MS and worsening TBI in 2017. These injuries drastically affected her vision and cognition and compelled her artistic emergence and the creation of a body of work numbering over 1300 digital art pieces. She creates cosmic digital art rooted in fractal geometry, where quantum physics, chaos theory, and divine order converge, all without any formal training. Diana is the subject and co-author of the new book Soldier, Sister, Savant, which shares the story of her artistic genius and samples of her art from 2017 to early 2021.
by Hope Angel - Seattle, WA, USA
From the artist: "My art is a product of my imagination. My paintings say it all without saying a single word.
Water speaks to and inspires me. It feeds my diverse and varied artwork. The forgiveness of acrylics allows me to skew and transform water’s powerful energy. Something about it draws people in; it has a sort of energy that has a mysterious hold on us. This earthy element draws the attention of the viewer into the texture and vision of the painting itself.
Water is life. Altering how we view it is but one way to challenge the unwritten rules, beliefs, and fears that shape our world and behaviors within. Its willingness for transformation makes it the perfect medium for soulful exploration. My goal is to inspire those who see my art to take an imaginary trip with me and explore the world from a unique and colorful perspective."
by Lisa Domenic - Philadelphia, PA, USA
From the artist: "I have always been a creative person: we live in the moment, aren’t afraid of challenges, and are natural-born problem solvers. I think that’s why I loved my work as a nurse helping patients.
When I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and narcolepsy there were new challenges I had to meet. I have not stopped exploring ways to meet each one and improve. I grew up in Philadelphia surrounded by the arts. I enjoy taking art and design workshops, participating in local exhibitions, and learning from others. I love what I am able to do!"
by Carmella Certion - Philadelphia, PA, USA
From the artist: "I am an artist, gerontologist, and marriage and family therapist currently living with MS. It all began with a simple painting of a cat for my granddaughter’s room after I gave it a mini-makeover last summer during the pandemic. A makeup artist by trade (I’m known as Nhjia Abyan) I was unable to “beat” faces so I now “beat” canvases. I mostly paint abstracts, landscapes, and cityscapes and I’ve only taken one class. My studio is located in my Philadelphia, PA bedroom where I mostly paint in bed due to a plethora of health challenges. I find painting relaxing and it also helps ward off depression and anxiety, which I suffer from periodically. I love to use bright colors, geometric shapes and texture in my work and my philosophy is simple: Art should be fun!"
by Andrea McCallum - Elko, NV, USA
From the artist: "MS is my diagnosis, but not my life.
My life is a joy and part of that joy is creating beauty both in how I choose to live my life as well as in the art I create.
Art allows for freedom of expression, imperfections, and interpretation. It asks us to look deeper and examine things more closely and from further away at the same time. It asks for perspective and contemplation.
Art is a lot like life…"
New Mexico at Midnight
by Jennifer Reida - Swansea, IL, USA
From the artist: "I am a Native American Artist who lives with MS. Through my diagnosis in 2013, I have learned to be flexible with the mediums that I use in my art. Depending on my abilities at the moment, I use graphite (pencil), charcoal, paint (acrylic, watercolor), pyrography (woodburning), digital, and oil pastels. Throughout my life I have used art as a visual journal. I put everything I see or feel onto the paper. I am currently on a journey of discovering more about my Native American heritage which is playing a large role in my work."
by Evelyn Hernandez - New York, NY, USA
From the artist: "After being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis and having a terrible accident that severely damaged my left hand, I found my therapy through painting, discovering my hidden creativity and a way of expressing my feelings. When I paint, my mind and heart guide my brushstrokes. I work with acrylics but have also experimented with oil and watercolor.
I use my palate to recreate nature's beauty, colors, and textures which are truly amazing. I love painting landscapes but also love creating from my imagination. My goal is to continue to grow by practice and experimentation to become a much better artist because I aim to convey my feelings of love, passion, and inspiration to others through my artwork."
by Ann Reisig – Ferguson, MO, USA
From the artist: "When I was diagnosed with MS, saying I was overwhelmed is an understatement. I have painted since I was a child. Art, painting, sewing, whatever is how I work problems out and make the world my happy place again. I won’t say MS has taken away things, but it has changed the way I do things. Instead of being a participant in an activity I now am the historian, taking pictures that I later paint. Instead of traveling, I have a good friend who travels and always sends me pictures to paint. When MS took my right hand for a while, I switched to using my left and a pallet knife to create a waterfall. MS in its own way has made me improve my skill set to rise to the challenges it sends."
by Melissa Koleshis – Tempe, AZ, USA
From the artist: "I was born and raised on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. I attended F.I.T. in NYC and graduated from Bridgewater University, Massachusetts, with a BA in Fine Arts. I was diagnosed with RRMS on Halloween 2016. I remember it was a Monday and that Saturday, just 2 days before, was when I completed my MRIs to confirm the diagnosis. So, I was shocked to hear from my neurologist so soon, they found a large mass in my throat that needed to be looked at immediately. I did not have cancer but lost my thyroid instead. In July 2018 I had to give up my job because it was such a struggle because of the MS. I now live in Phoenix, Arizona with my daughter, husband, and kitty. I miss the ocean breeze but love the big desert sky. MS will never take the title 'Artist' from me — as long as I can hold a paint brush I will create."
Sound of Silence
by Shana Stern – Pacific Palisades, CA, USA
From the artist: "Thirteen years into my MS diagnosis, I could no longer write or dance – my profession and my passion. Unable to hold a paintbrush because of my MS, I began painting using my fingers and knuckles. I paint each piece to a song – trying to interpret the feeling and movements of the dance I see in my brain. Crouched over canvas, covered in paint, lost in the music – everything else disappears. All my pain, cognitive and physical issues dissolve away into beauty and the freedom that painting affords me. I’ve lost much to MS, but my art has given me a second chance in life. I still get to tell stories – but instead of using a pen, I now use paint. I still get to dance – but instead of my feet, I use my fingers. I hope I will always be able to dance through paint and hopefully I can inspire people with my art."
by Leslie Pino Durant – Jemez Springs, NM, USA
From the artist: "I rarely expressed myself as an artist for fear of being exposed as a not-so-great one. As an adult, I loved the arts through the eyes of my children. When I was diagnosed with MS, my life was difficult to manage. I didn’t have a place to go to quiet my mind and body. Fast forward and my children are grown, I am retired, and I wanted to express my artistic need that I didn’t feed earlier. I picked up an art journal and a paintbrush and with the help of online art teachers and lots of practice, I learned to paint. I now have a place to go to that helps me get through fatigue, brain fog, and difficult days. Most importantly, I am proud to finally call myself an artist."
by AnnaMarie Prono – Forest Hills, NY, USA
From the artist: "I’ve lived with MS for more than 27 years. Two years ago, I stopped working as a construction project manager due to disease progression. I have always enjoyed drawing and painting. It is meditative and brings me peace. Most of my work is focused on nature and the outdoors. I often reference photographs when creating new work."
by Jennifer Lynn Reida – Swansea, IL, USA
From the artist: "I am a Native American Artist who lives with MS. Through my diagnosis in 2013, I have learned to be flexible with the mediums that I use in my art. Depending on my abilities at the moment I use graphite (pencil), charcoal, paint (acrylic, watercolor) and pyrography (woodburning). Throughout my life I have used art as a visual journal. I put everything I see or feel onto paper. I am currently on a journey of discovering more about my Native American heritage which is playing a large role in my work. I depict strong Native American women from the Cherokee Nation, due to its matriarchal society, and because there are many beautifully strong women in my life who deserve to be honored. The symbolism and culture of the Native people along with the landscapes of the Southwest inspire me in each drawing or painting that I create."
My Cat. My Muse.
by Jaclyn Spencer – Ogden, UT, USA
From the artist: "I began painting in 2016. I have always loved art but never gave myself the chance to create it. I may have felt insecure about being any good at it because of my limitations from MS. What I actually found out was that art was therapeutic for me. It’s an escape; it’s a way to let what I feel inside come out in a productive and creative way. It no longer matters to me if I am good at it or not. It makes me feel good and that’s all that matters. I love painting and although I drop a lot of brushes because of my numb hands, I keep going because it makes me happy."
Day is Done
by Laura Patchen – Pittsford, NY, USA
From the artist: “As a woman who has lived with MS for over 20 years, I’ve gone from owning my own business to being unable to work. I started painting about 8 years ago at our local recreation center. I found it made me feel like I was producing something worthwhile, which helped me deal with some of the losses associated with MS. The social aspect of getting together with others to paint is important to me, too. I hope my paintings bring enjoyment to others, but really, I do it for myself, and I’m proud of my growth and accomplishments in painting.”
Constellation des Colores
by Debra Robert – Lake Worth, FL, USA
From the artist: “Color and motion in my artwork had always been influenced by the imaginative lighting, sound, and stage design I was immersed in throughout my theatrical life. I have a BA in Theatre Arts and an MFA in Film. My career took me around the globe working in the live concert/conference industry. When I became disabled due to MS at age 46, I lost all desire to create. But as I learned to redefine my life and sense of being, my drive to create returned, but from a more internal place. I am learning to integrate my struggle with MS with the re-emerging ‘artist’s struggle’ from within. As my disease progresses, I use the hindrances it surmounts on me, such as tremors and vertigo, as expressive tools. My intent is not to create art ‘in spite of’ or ‘against’ MS, but in union with it.”
Strutting His Stuff
by Debbie Parker – Danielsville, GA, USA
From the artist: "I was diagnosed with MS in 2018. For years I struggled with symptoms and with every passing year it became more and more difficult for me to work. But it wasn’t until my neck pain became unbearable that my doctor ordered an MRI that revealed that I indeed had MS. For 2 years I’ve been taking my medication and feeling much better. I have always been artistic and find joy in creating works of art, especially from recycled materials. I made Strutting His Stuff from old magazines that would have been thrown away. Creating is such great therapy for me. Without art, I would battle with depression. I have discovered a new artistic expression in clay and find that throwing on the potter’s wheel helps with my joint pain as well!"
by Tammy Jennings - Monterey, CA, USA
From the artist: “I am a 60-year-old, single woman who’s been living with multiple sclerosis for 24 years. I worked full-time (at an architecture firm) until December 2006 when I had to ‘retire’ as some of the unpleasant ‘side-effects’ of my MS became too much to handle in a work environment. My cousin, Joyce Quaglino, who is an unbelievably talented artist, introduced me to the wonderful world of painting. I believe everyone can paint, mainly because it is almost mistake proof. Some of the worst ‘mistakes’ turn out to be the most beautiful paintings! The inspiration for my painting was my MS and how it seems to ‘mix’ into every aspect of my life.”
by Patricia Heller - Sturgeon Bay, WI, USA
From the artist: “Diagnosed 12 years ago, my life dramatically changed.... As I have learned to manage my MS, so too have I learned to recreate my life and painting has been a big part of that. Watercolors, like MS, are unpredictable. The interaction of the water and color rarely ends up looking the way I envision. So too with my MS symptoms..... With painting, I have learned to watch the movement of the water and the paint and capture it to create the images I intend. With MS symptoms, I have learned to listen to what my body is telling me and then use everything I have learned (meditation, relaxation, exercise ... best of all, watercolor painting) to manage MS."
by Nicole Verderame - Media, PA, USA
From the artist: "Art has always played a big part of my life, and when I was diagnosed with MS at just 19 it served as an outlet for me to express everything I was going through. Throughout all the highs and lows of this roller coaster of a disease, art has always been there to help me cope on those bad days, and those good days too. I believe it’s a powerful coping tool that anyone dealing with any rough patch in life can benefit from just like I have."
by David Desjardins - Union, ME, USA
From the artist: “I consider myself to be a very positive and optimistic person, but it was difficult maintaining that attitude when I first learned of my diagnosis, even for me! I admit that I have a few ‘blue’ days from time to time, but I choose not to allow myself to wallow in self-pity… I’ve always loved to paint, but in the past something always came up, demanding my immediate attention, taking me away from it. Now, however, I feel that I’m doing something creative with my time rather than giving in entirely to my illness.”
In the Deep
by Bean Fairbanks - Seattle, WA, USA
From the artist: "Since my MS diagnosis in 1987, I have had to continually reinvent myself as an artist as my abilities and senses change. I delighted in textile arts and photography as a young woman but found them challenging as my eyesight and sense of touch were impacted. I turned to digital art and painting. Two years ago, I discovered alcohol ink. It is an inexpensive medium, similar to watercolor. It allows me to paint with cotton balls, Q-tips, and other items easier for me to hold. A new world opened up. Today, art continues to be a critical part of my cognitive, physical, and mental therapy. I strive to do at least a little bit every day. If I do, I feel better.”
Fun Times at Grandpa's House
by Michelle Fansler - Kendallville, IN, USA
From the artist: "I was diagnosed with MS in 2004. Since then, I’ve had to overcome all sorts of obstacles. A big one is stress. I am unable to use my arms or my legs. All my paintings are done using my mouth. Even though there is a little stress from painting this way, it takes me somewhere stress-free and happy. All of my paintings are done with acrylic."
by Maria Sammartino - Riverton, NJ, USA
About the artist: Maria was born into a family of artists and has spent many years creating art. After being diagnosed with MS in 2009, Maria found herself immersed in painting, writing, and editing to help alleviate the pain that MS can cause. Maria presents the viewer with a challenge in self-described "imagined landscapes" and abstract art that often defy rules of perspective and dimension. Each painting is different from the next, and not easily described as "abstract" or "landscape" but both. She mixes her vibrant palette in what seems to be endless layers and texture, challenging the viewer to label or describe them easily.