Artist Elizabeth Jameson Turns Her MRIs into Artwork After Being Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

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Artist Elizabeth Jameson Turns Her MRIs into Artwork After Being Diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis

Before Elizabeth Jameson was a visual artist working on prints inspired by her own brain scans, she was a successful civil rights lawyer, fighting for children with disabilities and, later, gender equality. However, a lesion in her brain left her unable to speak. After therapy sessions, she was able to speak again, but, in 1991, she received a diagnosis that she had progressive multiple sclerosis, rendering her unable to practice law.

Jameson instead shifted her interests onto art and went to art school for painting. Inspired by her many trips to the hospital and her own brain scans, Jameson’s work is a colorful collection featuring silk paintings and copper etching prints that reinterpret her black-and-white brain scans. For example, her artwork “Celebration” depicts stick figure-shaped blood vessels “dancing and holding hands in joyous celebration.” According to Jameson, “the image is another example of discovering romance and beauty in the brain.”

“Inspired by the brain’s ability to change and adapt, my work exists in the spaces between science and art, between society and disease,” the artist writes on her website. “I aim to expand the conventional definition of portraiture by challenging viewers question what it means to be flawed-to be human.”

Jameson’s work has been shown internationally, including in permanent collections at the National Institutes of Health, Stanford University, Yale University, Center for Brain Science at Harvard University, Li Ka Shing Center for Biomedical and Health Services at the University of California, Berkeley, and in other collections around the world. Her art has also been in many scientific publications like Neurology, and in the journal of the American Academy of Neurology and Oxford University Press as cover art.

Now quadriplegic, Jameson makes her artwork with help from an assistant, much like other famous artists such as Henri Matisse. Her prints help her familiarize herself with her own brain and depict changes over time, according to Fast Company. She hopes to make MRI scans seem less frightening:

I found that the actual MRIs, I didn’t want to look at them. They were black white and ugly and I just didn’t even want to look at them. A lot of patients feel the same way. I want to take the fear out of looking at MRIs. We’re all defined by the technology now, we talk to the image rather than the talking about the disease. I decided to find beauty in their complexity.

Click through the gallery of Jameson’s artwork and visit her website for more info on the artist.