A few months ago I got an email out of the blue from an artist called Claire Anscomb who had read my blog and asked if she could do a portrait of me for an exhibition she was doing in July at the Mall Galleries as part of the Visibly Abled, Invisibly Disabled series. She has been creating portraits of several young people who are living full, active lives in spite of their EDS.
First thing I did, obviously, was click on the link to her website. I totally freaked out. Claire is disgustingly talented (no, I’m not jealous). She creates photorealistic portraits in pencil. Honestly, her pictures look like photos and they are incredible.
Of course, I said yes. So a few weeks later, Claire came to meet me at work to chat and take some snaps of me to work from. Rather unfortunately for me, I was in the middle of a horrific flare up and felt and looked rubbish, but at least it was representative of what I probably look like most of the time!
Today was the private view of the exhibition, so I went into town with my mum and dad. That was a bit of a kerfuffle because I was feeling absolutely wiped and pretty much had to be forced out of bed. We decided to take the wheelchair, and it was all pretty easy, except there is no disabled access at Charing Cross station, so there was a lot of jumping in and out for the stairs and escalators.
The exhibition is a collaboration between Claire, photographer Milly Banks, Fixers + Ehlers-Danlos Support UK. It aims to give a voice to diverse young people by inviting them to hold their own exhibition in order to raise awareness about the various conditions, barriers and challenges that they face through using a wide range of art forms including painting, film, performance, spoken word and text. The idea is that young people dealing with health conditions that are not always visible, share their stories in order to inspire and educate others about how to better tackle the challenges and barriers that they might also face. Which, is something massively reassuring that there are more opportunities for people to break the stigma of talking about invisible illness.
It was a real pleasure to see the wonderful portraits and photographs, and to read the stories of the people behind them. It was also great to speak to Claire, Milly and meet Jade (who reads my blog!) and is one of the other subjects. It’s really exciting and inspiring hearing about young people doing awesome things, even though they may be really unwell.
Apologies that the pictures aren’t fab – I was too tired to take my camera!
You can go and see the exhibition on the 7-8 July at the Mall Galleries. I highly recommend it!