My sister and fellow type 1 diabetic, Ana, had her first art showing recently on campus of her school, James Madison University.
The theme she chose was diabetes so I really wanted to share pictures of it with you all.
One of Ana’s professors expressed worry that this theme of diabetes somehow limited Ana’s potential to perhaps show her range. I would like to respectfully disagree. Diabetes is a 24/7 condition that affects every single cell in our bodies, has no cure, and has mental, social, emotional repercussions. Diabetes has no limits and neither does art. Art is expressed in many forms and has the potential to teach, inspire, and move us deeply. I have diabetes and know my sister but was still very surprised and moved from this collection and I know that many people without diabetes were really impacted and informed by this art work.
Ana was extraordinarily brave to open herself up in this way and allow us a chance to learn from and relate to her as a person living with diabetes. What is it they say? That in showing our vulnerabilities we reveal our strength and courage? Well, I agree and I’m really proud to call her my sister.
Her showing starts with a setting for visitors including her business cards and a jar of strips which gives a visual for just how many of these things we go through and how many finger pricks we endure.
This one is called “ketoacidosis”. Ana has only visited the hospital once in almost 19 years with type 1 diabetes and it was for ketoacidosis as a teenager. It came up fast and seemingly out of nowhere and scared the heck out of us. She recalls that she didn’t really know what ketoacidosis was nor did she realize how dangerous it could be.
Here, Ana says this represents the time between her hospital visit for ketoacidosis and the time she began these paintings. So activities and events are shown below and collectively demonstrate what is her very “Normal Life”, as the painting is called.
This one stumped me until Ana explained it. It’s the third in this series of four paintings and is called “Attack”. During the time of Ana’s “normal life” she read up on ketoacidosis to understand it better. She read about how serious it was and then went days waking up in the middle of the night with what sounds like anxiety attacks. She says she felt her heart beating strongly (which is why it’s enlarged in the painting) and felt she was being choked and sick to her stomach with fear at the realization of what diabetes could cause to happen.
Ana ends with a piece called “Thank You” which represents the support and love from family and friends.
“Insulin is Not a Cure”
This one is called “I Can See It Happening” and represents Ana’s fear of diabetes complications, namely, blindness. This is a strong fear for her because of how she loves to paint and make art and is a generally visually oriented person. But the squeezing out tears is also indicative of the many frustrations from living with diabetes.
I don’t remember this but days after Ana’s type 1 diabetes diagnosis at age 3, she caught the flu! Here are two framed sheets of notebook paper where our dad charted out Ana’s blood sugars trying to understand type 1 diabetes and help take care of a young daughter with the flu all at the same time. She was still in the honeymoon period at this point.
A wall of thoughts and feelings about diabetes…
Ana asked people with and without diabetes a few questions and framed the questions and the responses she received. Here are a few:
Ana’s answers to those questions:
Our friend Jennifer Brannock’s response:
Our mom’s response:
Our 12 year old brother:
From Ana’s boyfriend (ironically, also my husband’s youngest brother):
Here is one girl’s heartbreaking response (let’s leave her some encouraging comments!)
From Patty Keller:
More people from the DOC responded:
Don’t we know about ketones and strips…
The beta cell is quite lovely:
and in color:
I remember taking this picture one summer. Ana and our other sister Sara were in the basement roller blading to music. Our mom called down the stairs, “Ana! Check!” Ana dutifully shoved off her skates and ran upstairs to check. I thought about how our reality was so strange, yet so normal and I took a picture of her while checking her blood sugar. I didn’t tell her to “say cheese”, she did that all on her own. After this photo she went back to roller blading and I was secretly inspired by her ability to carry diabetes so gracefully. Even though the hardship of diabetes is present, I think this picture reflects the potential we all have as people with or without diabetes.
In other words, we do what we need to do, smile…and carry on with life.
Thank you so much for viewing/reading this post. It’s the next best thing to having had you all over to the art show in person.
We’re eager to hear what you think in the comments :)
XOXO, Sysy and Ana Morales