This month, we’re thrilled to share the work of Bethany Noël Murray, who exhibited her show “Brains are Cool, Even When They Hurt” in our Open Door Gallery in Boston as part of the series, “Prisms: Perspectives on Hidden Disability” in 2019.
Bethany is a New England based artist and painter whose work reflects her experiences with migraine episodes and their symptoms. After studying biochemistry at Reed College, she received a scholarship to complete her BFA in Painting at Rhode Island School of Design in 2011. Bethany has exhibited throughout the Boston area, including a 2019 solo exhibition at the Open DoorGallery in Boston. She has been featured in publications such as The Boston Hassle, Boooooooom, and MyModernMet.
Bethany’s paintings are renderings of the world as it appears through the lens of her chronic migraine symptoms, including ocular aura and a plethora of Alice-in-Wonderland effects (eg, micropsia, macropsia, pelopsia, and teleopsia). These symptoms distort her perception, making her world more intense, more alien, more saturated. Clinically, ocular aura is a neurologic artifact of migraine; experientially, it superimposes a fractal vision of color, light, and darkness over a person’s vision. The effect can be completely encompassing or relegated to a quadrant of the visual field. Most commonly, it acts as a semipermeable visual filter, like a heat shimmer on hot pavement.
Bethany’s aura transforms the world around us, and she paints the transformation. She chooses the eerie joy of this otherworldly vision, finding light despite the pain that is her constant companion. In doing so, she gives visibility to an invisible disease. She paints representations of her perceptions both directly and as seen in the context of natural shapes and scenes. Her paintings feature the mundanity of a bit of foliage and tree bark as the kaleidoscopic wonder it truly is. Her brushwork and color choices aim to recreate the ocular aura and spatial distortion of her migraine episodes by mimicking optical fracturing and perspective collapse in the leaves, brush, and bark of her forests.”
Bethany has an upcoming solo show in May at the Renaissance Framing Gallery in Watertown, with an opening reception on Saturday, May 7th. When not in her Somerville studio, she can be found reading, hiking, and baking—invariably accompanied by Sargent, her ever present canine shadow.