‘Expression Of Hope’ Opens At National Museum Of Health And Medicine
“I am ten years old and have MPS I. My painting of a dragon expresses the courage that everyone needs when they have MPS.” Artist Nicklas Harkins describes his life with Mucopolysaccharidosis I (MPS I) and his strength, along with the stories of others living with lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs), through a collection of inspiring pieces of art entitled, “Expression of Hope,” on display at the National Museum of Health and Medicine Nov. 9, 2007 through March 2, 2008.
Lysosomal storage disorders (LSDs) are a group of approximately 50 genetic (inherited) disorders, sharing common clinical and biochemical characteristics. Individually, each disease is rare, but as a group, the prevalence of LSDs has been estimated from 1 in 5,000 to 1 in 7,000.
People with LSDs are either lacking or in short supply of particular enzymes that are found in the lysosome (a compartment of the cell) that contains various digestive enzymes as well as acidic materials. Because of this, molecules that are meant to be broken down by the missing enzymes build up within the lysosome, and can prevent the cell from working properly. Most LSDs are progressive and life threatening.
Sponsored by Genzyme, the 32 pieces of art featured in “Expression of Hope” were created as a means to generate awareness and understanding of the strength and courage of thousands of people worldwide living with LSDs. Numerous patient organizations from around the world became involved and encouraged their members to submit artwork that shares their feelings of hope and explores the realities, perceptions, and experiences of living with an LSD. Building on the concept from the “...also bin ich” (“...therefore I am”) program launched by the German MPS Society, the program explores some of the differences and similarities between how someone living with an LSD views the world and how the world may view the person.
In partnership with the National Gaucher Foundation, an additional three pieces of art including one scar mono-print by artist Ted Meyer will be on display in the exhibition. Meyer’s previous exhibition at the museum, “Scarred for Life,” featured 36 mono-prints of scars, accentuated with gouache (opaque water color paint) and color pencil.
Meyer feels that a scar is not just a marker of a disability, but rather part of what makes someone physically and emotionally unique. “Scars can mark entering into or out of a disability, going from cancer to health, from limited mobility to full movement. They freeze a moment in time, a car accident or gun shot.”
Born in New Rochelle, N.Y., Meyer was frequently in the hospital as a child due to Gaucher disease, a rare genetic disorder that causes pain and deterioration of the joints and organs. Much of his early artwork dealt with his illness and as he became healthier, his work had less to do with his own physical condition and came to highlight others.
Meyer became aware of how scars can mark a turning point in peoples’ lives; sometimes for good, but often otherwise. Similar to the pieces of artwork featured in “Expression of Hope,” each scar also comes with a story.
“Each artist’s ability to create a beautiful image as a remarkable reflection of their own experiences as an LSD patient, or as an outside-observer of someone suffering from LSD is fascinating. Each piece of art allows you to discover the patient’s personal health histories and the courage necessary to cope with the healing process,” said Adrianne Noe, Ph.D., the museum’s director. “Together these artists have identified a unifying theme which is truly unique--an appropriate exhibition for a museum that links healing to art.”
The National Museum of Health and Medicine was established in 1862 when U.S. Army Brig. Gen. William Alexander Hammond, the U.S. Army Surgeon General, issued orders that directed all Union Army medical officers “to collect, and to forward to the office of the Surgeon General all specimens of morbid anatomy, surgical or medical, which may be regarded as valuable; together with projectiles and foreign bodies removed, and such other matters as may prove of interest in the study of military medicine or surgery.”
The museum’s more than 24 million specimens and artifacts were the first in the country to be registered by the U.S. Department of the Interior as a National Historic Landmark and it is the only museum collection in Washington, D.C. with this status. The museum is open every day except Dec. 25 from 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. It is located at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, 6900 Georgia Avenue, NW, Washington, D.C. More information can be found on the website at www.nmhm.washingtondc.museum or call (202) 782-2200. Admission and parking are free.