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Arts and Narrative

The Symposium will feature a number of patient narratives—from Paula Orecklin, our primary case under consideration, to interviews with members of the Chronic Pain Support Group of Southern Maine. Artists who live with chronic pain will also be present, as will their work on the day of the Symposium.

Portraits of Pain Blog

Many chronic pain patients tell their stories on our blog Portraits of Pain.  A variety of artists and scholars have worked to capture these stories, including:

  • Students Lindsay St. Louis (Neuroscience),Kristen Brusky (COM) & Tyler Vunk (CAS) (video and narrative)
  • Cathy Plourde from Add Verb Productions and Holly Haywood (photographic portraiture and narrative Heal/Tell)
  • Chronic Pain Support Group of Southern Maine
  • Regina Holiday and Karen Musick (painters)
  • Sarah Gorham (painter) and others
  • Mike D'Apice a recent graduate of UNE, freelance videographer.

Karen Musick

Karen Musick is a 52-year-old mother of two, and self taught artist from Kerrville, Texas, whose work addresses medical negligence and chronic pain. She has lived with Central Pain Syndrome since the age of 28 (learn more here), and is very excited to be able to share her experience with health professions students. Her mother Kirtsy Mitchell told us “It will be so gratifying to have some part in bringing awareness of the ramifications of pain to the medical profession.”

During a visit to the Guggenheim in 1999, upon close inspection of the brush strokes of masters like Dali and Kahlo, Musick recognized something she innately knew—these artists had created detailed, surrealistic views into emotions and sensations that impact and effect us all.

Working in oils, or pen and ink, Karen says she “ignored all that I had been taught about creating art and began to draw my barest emotions. I used shapes combined with colors to describe the turmoil I could find no words for. The impact of what I had created was a powerful view into this devastating time in my life. Drawing became my lifeline to sanity, a way to deal with powerful, and overwhelming feelings. These works became a source of comfort, dialogue, understanding, and inspiration for myself and many of my peers.”

“The goal of my work today is not only to provide a source of therapy and distraction for myself, but to create works of unusual beauty and technical aptitude that will stop this fast paced world in its tracks; and for more than just a moment. I want to mesmerize the participant, bring them into vivid mindscapes, deftly created, that encourage study, reflection, and ultimately healing. I want to bring tears to the eyes, intrigue to the mind, and hope to the soul.”

Arla Patch

Arla Patch is a Maine artist, teacher and workshop leader who uses her art as a tool for healing. She leads an art program called Explorations: Classes in Creative Development at the Grace Retreat Center in western Maine. See Arla's work HERE. 

Jenn Shifflet

Jenn Shifflett lives and works in California. She lives with Neurofibromatosis type 2, and a select few pieces from her large body of works are based on MRI films which were made during efforts to locate and treat her pain. When created, her “internal landscape” paintings, became a “ transform and find meaning in what cannot otherwise be healed through conventional medicine.” She is glad to have her art at UNE for the Symposium—happy that her works will be seen “where they will be appreciated and understood.”