CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF: A BRAIN JOURNEY opened at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco on November 12, 2009, and will run through January 2010. Using her collection of hundreds of Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) scans of her own brain as a common starting point, Elizabeth Jameson creates artwork in a variety of mediums. The resulting creations are quite literally a visual record of the artist’s conversations with herself. Elizabeth Jameson’s CONVERSATIONS WITH MYSELF: A BRAIN JOURNEY will feature solarplate etchings, silk paintings, textile art, mixed media pieces, and digital work.
We had a chance to catch up with her before her show.
Why art? My artwork deals with the intersection of art and science. My current work consists of self-portraits based on my own magnetic resonance images (MRIs), or brain scans. MRIs are black and white computer pixels that form three-dimensional representations of the brain. They provide critical clinical understanding of the changes taking place in the structure of my brain. However, the images show a barren anatomy, without the context of human emotions and feelings. My job as an artist is to provide emotional context to the stark computer images and explore personal reflections within the digital self-portrait.
I used to be a public interest lawyer. But I unfornately discovered I had MS after a MS lesion in the brain prevented my ability to talk. So I turned to art as a means to develop a new way of experiencing life.
For several years I painted my brain scans on silk, pouring French dyes on the fabric. They produced pleasing abstract shapes, but I still longed to portray the detailed beauty of the brain scan. Then I discovered the process of solar etching, where I could actually etch the original scan on copper plates. I then applied color with printing inks to the surface of the copper plate, where I could create my own personal interpretation of my brain.
When did you first start? I became fascinated with medical imaging when I found out I could use these pictures to understand the changes that were going on in my body. In the fall of 1992, I was at the park with my two young children when I suddenly lost the ability to speak or walk. After brain surgery, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). I soon learned that the disease had damaged areas of my brain, which interfered with my ability to walk, process language and communicate with words. I immediately wanted to see what the damage looked like and visualize my feelings and thoughts within the context of these brain images captured in the numerous scans the neurologists kept ordering for me. Thus began my keen interest in medical technology.
Who inspires you? The people in my life who are trying to improve the world. The public interest law community, to which I belonged, is working on immigrate rights. Homelessness, the victims of political oppression, the rights of women. . I would like to continue to offer my artistic skills to these non-profits, as I have done in the past.
What do you strive for when creating? I am both an artist and a former public interest lawyer—representing poor and vulnerable children throughout the country. As an artist, my goal is to create art that will contribute to the greater community in which we live. I desire to be a public interest artist, and support the institutions that are trying to change our society.
My ultimate desire is to increase our understanding of the brain by making medical imaging more accessible to those who view these revealing pictures. In my art, I use my own MRIs. I transform the cold, two-dimensional MRI pixels with the numerous colors and emotions that comprise the landscape of my life…to explore my personal reflections within the digital self-portrait that are the focus of my work.
You have a show coming up…are you nervous? I am nervous and very grateful for the chance to display my work. In a way, I feel vulnerable. My show. “Conversations with Myself: A Brain Journey” is based on my own MRIs. It is about my own brain, and I feel exposed. I hope that vulnerability will come across in my art.
It is emotional for me– I have over 35 etchings, two large quilts of the brain and spinal cord, and a 7-foot tall silk wall hanging on display. It has been my work for over 3 years.
About how many shows have you done?
2009 Solo Show, Commonwealth Club of San Francisco
2008 Group Show, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek
2007 Solo Show, University of California at San Francisco School of Medicine
2006 Group Show, Bedford Gallery, Walnut Creek
Do they get easier? I am so happy to display my work. Each time it is such a high.
If you could let the world know about someone/something, who/what would it be? I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS) in 1991. I promptly became fascinated with medical imaging when I found out that I could use MRIs to plot the changes that transpired in my body and my brain.
My MS diagnosis inspires me to create images that provide new insights into the brain and at the same time make medical imaging more accessible to those who view these revealing pictures.
My next journey: I was thinking of exploring whether the use of solar etching might be useful in the area of breast cancer.
Where can someone purchase your work? Contact me at Jamesonfineart.com