"Scarred for Life"
Re-framing Traumatic Medical Experiences through the Creative Process
In addition to creating art that relates to his own physical condition, Meyer’s work also illustrates how other patient/artists live with rare diseases and permanent disabilities. This presentation discusses how health problems affect every aspect of one’s life, including work, family relationships, and planning for the future, and how those plans can change in unforeseen ways.
Meyer’s lecture begins with a definition of Gauchers disease and walks the audience through his life phases with this illness: childhood (frequent pain and hospitalizations); youth (little hope for living past his 20’s; relationship problems, and career planning); his 30s (hip and enzyme replacements); and current life (multiple drug therapies, struggles with insurance).
To illustrate these life changes Meyer shows slides of his artwork and its evolution as medical treatments improved his life. For contrast, he also describes the life and deaths of his two brothers, one who had a different form of Gauchers disease and a second who was disease-free. He continues with a history of his “Scarred for Life” art series, in which he recounts several unique and compelling stories of patients who became his subjects. In conclusion, Meyer reviews his current curatorial projects, including those at The UCLA Geffen School of Medicine and galleries around Los Angeles.
This presentation is available in both long and short format and is can be paired with interactive storytelling workshops for both patients and medical providers, and/or “Print Your Scar” art workshops.
As a small child with a serious illness, Ted Meyer was told to be patient. Be patient for treatment, for new joints, for results. And ultimately, be patient for the possibility of a normal life expectancy. Like all patients, he was told to be a patient patient.
This lecture discusses Meyer’s personal experience as both a patient and an artist. The presentation first focuses on what it feels like to anticipate an early death and the wonder of being given a second lease on life—a life with a normal life expectancy. He then discusses the subsequent readjustment of his life’s priorities and the responsibility of using his additional “time” in a meaningful way. Meyer then turns from his personal story to the stories of other survivors, particularly those featured in his “Scarred for Life, Every Scar Tells a Story” art documentation project. He explains the insights he gained while creating “Scarred for Life”, which led him to become the first Artist in Residence at UCLA's Geffen School Medicine. Meyer’s lecture concludes with his experience as a medical school Resident Artist, a position that involves curating exhibitions by both artists and patients as a way of teaching the patient experience to medical students.
This presentation is available in both long and short format and can be paired with interactive storytelling workshops for both patients/families and medical providers.
Curating for Hospitals,
Medical Schools, and other
As the Resident Artist at UCLA’s Geffen School of Medicine and the Keck School of Medicine, Meyer has extended his curating knowledge to art installations in nontraditional places.
In this talk, Meyer discusses the benefits and drawbacks of curating in non-art spaces, such as hospitals, non-art schools, and other public spaces. The lecture begins with Meyer’s childhood experiences of disease and art making and how his artwork changed as treatments were developed for his disease. He describes the origin of his “Scarred for Life” art project, the progression of his artistic vision, and the broadening diversity of his target audience.
In explaining his role as an Artist in Residence, Meyer delineates the difference between art therapy and art about medicine and health. The lecture also includes logistical information about curating art shows in non-art spaces such as hospitals. He explains potential insurance and installation issues, the benefit of artist lectures, and how such shows can be promoted.
Additionally, he talks about the power of a large collection of work (e.g., his “Scarred for Life” project) and about creating artwork that is non-salable. He concludes with information on his efforts to reach a broader audience through the use of social media, self-publishing, twitter and videos. Throughout the presentation, Meyer illustrates his points by showing art created by artists living with chronic disease and/or disability.