Saturday, April 13 in San Diego: U.S. tour continues for renowned painter proving Multiple Sclerosis won’t stop her
Lydia Emily’s works to culminate in national art project for World MS Day in May 2019 with artworks inspired by messages from fellow MS survivors"If I can paint a million faces with one eye and half of a hand, you can do anything.”— Lydia Emily, visionary street artist and muralist who was diagnosed with MS in 2012
LOS ANGELES - You are invited to interview Lydia Emily, a dynamic and outspoken street artist whose passion for life has only grown since her 2012 diagnosis with multiple sclerosis. Refusing to allow her disease to dictate her life, Emily instead uses MS as a bridge that connects her to others who live with the disease. By defiantly creating art on her own terms — even if she needs to tie her brushes to her fingers on the days that an MS-related tremor makes it difficult to paint — Emily inspires her fellow MS patients while attracting vital attention to a frustratingly “invisible” disease.
“People look at me and I look fine, but that doesn’t capture everything that’s going on under the surface,” says Lydia Emily. That’s partly because MS presents differently in every person. For Lydia, it means she’s lost vision in her left eye and lives with chronic pain and fatigue. “When I have really bad MS days, it feels like I have fire ants under my skin and in my gums. But through my art, I’m making life with MS visible so people can see what it means.”
Now Lydia Emily shares her talents in a new project with EMD Serono called MS on My Mind which aims to raise awareness of the emotional toll that the disease can take. The campaign encourages individuals with MS and their caregivers to share their experiences through pictures, poetry, and prose. Lydia Emily is making a collection of oil paintings drawn from 6 of the stories, and will also make one overarching piece that interweaves the themes from all the submitted stories.
Emily’s work is guided by her own personal philosophy, which she calls “Us Theory”: “Right now, life is all about taking selfies. It’s a me, me, me world. But what if, instead of breaking out your selfie stick, you took a photo of you with someone else — someone who needs you? This project is about changing our focus and getting us outside of ourselves.”
Lydia Emily’s commitment to helping and advocating for others has helped sustain her through a lifetime of hardship, including sexual assault, becoming a single-parent to a child with severe autism, surviving cervical cancer, and now battling multiple sclerosis. But rather than allowing life’s obstacles to keep her down, Lydia Emily greets each new day knowing that MS has numbered her days, so she intends to make them count. Interview this incredible woman for an intimate portrait of resilience, courage, and compassion in action, and a reminder that our hardships don’t have the power to deny us our dreams.COMING EVENTS FOR LYDIA EMILY April 13th, San Diego,California: Live mural painting for MS WalkApril 27th, Charolotte, North Carolina: Live mural painting for MS WalkApril 28-29th, Washington, D.C.: Speaking at the On the Move Conference for MS SocietyMay 2-12 at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, Newfields, IN, Seeing MS from the Inside Out will screen as part of the 2019 Indy Film FestMay 7th, Philadephia, Pennsylvania: debut the 3 most recent MS Walk murals (Tampa, San Diego, Charlotte) together at the AAN (American Assoc. of Neurologists) Conference.
ABOUT LYDIA EMILY
As a female pioneer In a street art field that is primarily dominated by men, Emily’s powerful work has been featured nationally and worldwide, with shows in Milan, Berlin, Los Angeles, New York, Washington DC, and San Francisco. She frequently uses her art to highlight human rights issues, such as sex trafficking and girls’ education in Tibet. She has also created murals for Gucci charity Chime For Change and for the award-winning 2013 Ryan Coogler film Fruitvale Station. More of Lydia Emily’s work can be seen at http://www.lydiaemily.com/
ABOUT THE EMERGING ART OF THE M.S. ON MY MIND INITIATIVE
To date, Lydia Emily has created five oil paintings for the MS on My Mind Campaign. Each work depicts the ways Multiple Sclerosis reshapes a person’s everyday life. The paintings are each based on the experiences of people with Multiple Sclerosis and their caregivers. Individuals have shared their stories through words and images that Lydia Emily has then interpreted on canvas.
The first piece she created shows how MS makes simple tasks arduous. A woman is shown blow drying her hair, but instead of a plastic blow dryer, she’s holding a solid metal anvil. Lydia Emily says, “the anvil shows the the weight, but she looks normal—because people with MS have to look normal. No one can see what it looks like for us.”
Lydia Emily notes that some of the pieces will be more appreciated by niche audiences. One contributor to MS on My Mind shared how hard it was for her to do needlepoint that she used to do. Lydia Emily explains, “Anyone who does embroidery would look at this and know it’s all wrong: there’s an excess of fabric, the materials are bulky, and the needle is far too big.” She explains this is meant to depict how difficult MS makes it feel to engage in once-ordinary tasks. “A simple action like picking up a hoop or controlling a needle becomes cumbersome,” she reflects.
A vibrant painting in blue and green tones shows a woman surrounded by water, her head rising above the frothy peaks. The beach is usually depicted as a carefree vacation spot, but MS mediates those experiences. Lydia Emily explains, “A lot of us with MS can’t swim anymore.” She painted the woman's face at peace. She notes, “She’s not supposed to be happy to be in the water, she’s not supposed to be sad—she’s just relaxed: ‘I’m here; it’s okay.’” MS teaches you not to take anything for granted.
Another painting shows two feet in fluid motion, arched and on their toes like a pointe dancer. One foot is wrapped in flowing ribbons, the other with an Ace bandage. Lydia Emily explains, “I wanted to show how painful it is to walk normally with MS.” An individual with MS may still appear to function normally, but that may belie reality. Lydia Emily shares, “we look like we’re still dancing around fine, but we’re not. We’re in pain. We’re in terrible pain.”
A common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis is Drop Foot. “A lot of times, it’s the first symptom someone has,” Lydia Emily explains. When someone with Drop Foot goes to lift up their foot, it feels heavy and the toe drags. Even a simple task like crossing your legs becomes laborious. Lydia Emily depicts this in her image of a man posed for a portrait, but in place of his left foot is an anchor. “This is our new normal—a normal that’s constantly changing as you try to go through the world.”
Lydia Emily leads painting a mural: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFy4TRCSwI0
Lydia Emily featured in the documentary Seeing MS from the Inside Out: https://youtu.be/oMPtpvykKcc?t=857
EMD Serono - the biopharmaceutical business of Merck KGaA, Darmstadt, Germany, in the U.S. and Canada – is engaged in the discovery, research and development of medicines for patients with difficult to treat diseases. The business is committed to transforming lives by developing and delivering meaningful solutions that help address the therapeutic and support needs of individual patients. Building on a proven legacy and deep expertise in neurology, fertility and endocrinology, EMD Serono is developing potential new oncology and immuno-oncology medicines while continuing to explore potential therapeutic options for diseases such as psoriasis, lupus and multiple sclerosis. Today, the business has approximately 1,300 employees around the country with commercial, clinical and research operations based in the company’s home state of Massachusetts.
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