Diseases accompany every human being life. Put simply, the pain makes feel alive and proves our existent feelings. However, in cases of serious diseases, the life which is the main inspiration source becomes in danger. While struggling for every day of your life, artists detect different ways to use their diseases as muses or even workplaces by making them art objects. These stories are about high-hearted and fearless people, who won the right to live and create.


Shawn Thornton (the USA)

This US artist fought the pineal gland cancer, which surprisingly became not only a disease but also a kind of “the third eye”. The pineal gland is a tiny organ in the center of the human brain which maintains light sensitivity and produces hormones. Thereby any disorders of this organ’s function may cause irreversible changes in the body. For Shawn Thornton, it was hard to imagine that the pineal gland cancer can open “the window of possibilities” for a unique psychedelic experience and further to sophisticated, extremely colourful paintings.

When Shawn developed cancer in art school, he didn’t even know where is the problem organ situated. As he says, he could only perceive alterations of his mind’s sight which happened very soon. The desire to live and struggle gave him an impulse for conversion of all his experience into pure creative energy.

“I’ve had a lot of truly mystical and otherworldly experiences as a result of my history and battle with brain cancer and I’m really drawn to things that resonate with a certain powerful energy, and I’m always honing in on that more and more. whether consciously or subconsciously”.

Ashley Soto (the USA)

Ashley Soto, 21-year old body-positive blogger from Florida inherited a quite rare disease – vitiligo (a disorder of skin pigmentation leading to large white spots all over the body). When Soto was 12, it entered her teenage life and brought a young girl a bunch of complexes and conflicts with social ambience. Rapidly her classmates and other kids aimed scoffs at her. Ashley decided to get over the problem with the help of marker: “I  never realized how beautiful my vitiligo was until I traced it with a black marker, it really helps to bring out the different colours of my skin”.

Ashley managed to make outstanding pictures, she even recreated Van Gogh’s Starry Night. Later she posted pictures of herself on social media resources and soon gained popularity and honour. Some of her numerous followers got inspired and developed Ashley’s idea into a fashion trend. By these shoots, blogger showed the beauty of vitiligo skin and helped hundreds of girls all over the world tackling similar skin problem gain self-confidence and look at their bodies from the other side.

That is the bravest manifesto declaring the supremacy of beauty, leaving nothing to say for gibers.

Salvatore Iaconesi (Italy)

Michel Foucault’s idea about exclusion people with diseases from social life was definitely a challenge for an Italian artist Salvatore Iaconesi. He tells his story circumstantially, as a man of art does, firstly proving Foucault’s words “When you have something as serious as cancer, your life disappears and you are replaced by a disease”, then demolishing them. The doctor said, he had cancer and handed Iaconesi his medical records with brain scans which were not understandable for an amateur: records teemed with medical terms, and scans were encoded. Salvatore wanted to “see what was growing inside” of him and started to study his bedroom chart and hack the scan file.

As soon as he got the image of his tumour, he immediately shared it on his website called “La Cura” (“The Cure”) where he also asked the audience to send him a cure whether it was medical or not. Salvatore’s practice and narrative provoked a real explosion of creative activity: people sent him self-made stories, music, videos and, of course, paintings. “La Cura” also attracted several doctors, who gave useful practical recommendations.

Iaconesi had a successful surgery and the disease retreated, but there still were lots of patients with similar diagnosis and they still need the support. This platform responded audience needs and functions nowadays, where people can even share their medical recordings, discuss it or simply say “I am here”, the sentence which became a symbol of life fought the disease.

“Henna heals” (Canada)

“Henna Heals”, a group of volunteer artists from Canada decided to use their skills in quite an unusual engagement. Women after chemotherapy suffered from commotion after looking at the mirror. The initiative was aimed at their fastest adaptation to the post-disease period of life: the artists cover their hair skin by tattoo ornaments, “henna crowns”.

“Henna crowns” have feminine floral ornaments, religious symbols, messages of love and hope and let people see in bodies after chemotherapy their own aesthetics. The tattoos help women overcome hair loss after a chemotherapy and stop the demoralizing affect of it, which probably delays the recovery. Psychologists often underline the significance of hair for individuals. Hair is always connected to human identity, thereby its loss is perceived with difficulties.

 “The henna crown was a fantastic boos over a long haul treatment and equally long winter. It boosted my morale and my feelings of feminity and it was nice to be able to do this in my home”.

Polina Sinyatkina (Russia)

To recognize the terrible diagnosis on the May holidays and get to the cheerless hospital for more than half of a year – after that young Russian artist, Polina Sinyatkina felt disinclined to live further. “It seems for all that it [tuberculosis] is an infamous illness. It shaped so historically”, – Polina says. Actually, everyone can become ill in case of immune disfunction and poor nutrition. But the girl took a look at the situation from the other side. She understood that her mission was to tell the society about the patients of tuberculosis dispensary.

She organized an exhibition “Hold Your Breath” wholly dedicated to tuberculosis diseased and not only to them – Polina also participated in voluntary activities against HIM, and this theme was touched as well.

The situation around tuberculosis in Russia is staying anxious. The officials don’t spread enough information, the theme is not popular in mass media. In addition, patients of tuberculosis clinics prefer to hide their diagnosis for years even from relatives, because this disease is considered to be a shame, fate of prisoners, poor or homeless people. The statistics say that tuberculosis is the most widespread reason for death in Russia and as long as people are afraid to discuss it, the ratings will be high. Polina’s project aims to ruin stereotypes and start curing instead of hiding.

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