“Living with multiple sclerosis and neurodivergence have left an indelible mark on my practice; I create as I am able and as long as it sparks relaxation, wonder, and joy. Creating art over these last few years for the multiple sclerosis community has been an endless source of inspiration, and helps me get out of bed on the harder days.”
A passionate artist and advocate, Lindsey is an inspiration for those living with Multiple Sclerosis and chronic illness. Her journey into art started at a young age alongside her mother and aunt, who taught her and her siblings the importance of creative expression. As a child, she was always working on a project...whether it was illustrating a story, creating polymer clay fairies or dragons, or crafting a violin out of a kleenex box. She put great focus into studying violin through college, but, Lindsey expresses, “I returned to art in my early twenties as a way to cope with a stressful job, challenging myself to find something that gave me the same feeling of wonder as a child.”
In early adulthood, Lindsey embraced artmaking as a way to relieve debilitating anxiety and depression. Lindsey explains, “The act of making something felt like a triumph over my physical symptoms.” However, a new challenge emerged when Lindsey was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. Faced with the reality of chronic illness and changing abilities, Lindsey again turned to art to process her diagnosis.
During this critical juncture, Lindsey started a new art project that would transform her life and the lives of others. Looking at the MRI scan of her brain, she decided to paint a new representation of it, full of vibrancy, color, movement and life. This painting helped her come to terms with her diagnosis and reimagine what it means to live with MS. From this, Lindsey created the #ColorsofMS project, a program where others living with MS could commission Lindsey to paint new interpretations of their MRI scans. This proved to be extremely valuable, and since its inception, Lindsey has painted over 300 MRI scans.
“I am so eager to help others view their diagnosis in a different light that delivering a painting sometimes feels like the anticipation of a holiday morning. I would never say that I'm happy I was diagnosed with MS, but it completely reshaped my outlook on how I want to shape my life moving forward. It's given me boundaries, and a renewed gusto to stay curious and creative.”
With greater confidence and motivation from the MS community, Lindsey pursued creating more art in different ways. Working in a variety of mediums, from alcohol and India ink to cyanotype printing and encaustic, Lindsey has many tools at her disposal. She is very proudly neurodivergent, and her style mirrors this. For ink work, she gravitates towards bold and bright colors and abstract forms and always seeks to create a layered texture in every piece. Lindsey shares, “I love working with alcohol ink because it has a mind of its own. Over the years I've learned and developed several techniques to corral its behavior, but there is a really fun element of surprise that always manages to work its way into the art. Ink is bright, saturated, and unapologetic, and always manages to keep me on my toes.”
Additionally, Lindsey’s Japanese heritage, experience with chronic illness, combined with her love of poetry and a background in music often inform her work in the studio. She incorporates the kintsugi, the Japanese practice of honoring the imperfect cracks in ceramics by highlighting them in gold. In her paintings, she lines each cut-out lesion structure with gold as a nod to this. She also incorporates cut paper, or kirigami, into many of her works. The dots that are represented in most of her pieces symbolize triumph over physical challenges she faces with her eyesight or fine motor control. Furthermore, she creates silhouetted figural pieces with closed eyes – as an ode to her experience with Optic Neuritis.
“Art has given me so much confidence back, which I really felt like I had lost when I was pursuing work that was at odds with my mental and physical needs. I welcome that uncomfortable feeling that accompanies growth and take a lot of comfort in the knowledge that what felt impossible yesterday may not be true for today and the future.”
Artmaking has also created a method to connect with and inspire her children. Lindsey recalls her first opportunity to show her art in Portland and how nervous she was. What kept her moving forward was knowing her daughters would be there and that it was important to conquer her fears because they would be watching. She ended up writing a letter to them about overcoming fear and taking up space, which she decided to print and use as a sign at the entrance of the show. This proved extremely impactful to herself, her daughters, and the viewers – and the sign still hangs in her studio today as a point of motivation and triumph.
“Art has given me so many beautiful moments with my daughters; while I may not be chasing them down a soccer field, we have our time together to be messy in the studio. I hope they see how I have taken something as heavy as a diagnosis, and have turned it into happiness, and even opportunity.”
Overall, Lindsey hopes to feel more supported and gain financial stability for her family through her partnership with ArtLifting. Running an art business with a chronic illness can feel impossible at times, so Lindsey is thankful that she now has an organization elevating artists who face barriers in accessing the traditional art market. She dreams of one day branching into installation work, creating a floor-to-ceiling encaustic wire sculpture.
She also hopes for a cure for multiple sclerosis, but, she shares, “until then I hope to inspire and lift up other artists living with chronic illness. Someday I hope to finally write a book and have the opportunity to travel more.” Lindsey is a passionate LGBTQIA+ ally and enjoys volunteering at community art events. When she's not painting, she loves to cook, read and write...and try to keep up with her two girls and three goofy dogs!read more
Prints by Lindsey Holcomb
ArtLifting champions artists impacted by homelessness or disabilities through the celebration and sale of their artwork. Learn more here.