Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Many Faces of NF--Guest Post

I had the great please of connecting with Rachel Mindrup on Facebook.  A selfless woman who paints portraits and brings out the beauty in those suffering from Neurofibromatosis.  Rachel not only donates to the hope of one day finding proper treatment for NF's manifestations, she also provides an honest and beautiful look, into the heart and soul of Neurofibromatosis!

Thank You Rachel, for all you do, for so many!

(This blog entry was written by Rachel Mindrup.  She gave me approval to re-post on this site...For more information about Rachel and her work, please go to http://www.rmindrup.com/)


My current project is called "The Many Faces of NF" and it encompasses portraits of people who have Neurofibromatosis and are themselves striving to bring awareness and further research to help find a cure for this genetic disorder. But, why paint portraits? Why not just simply donate money? Why bother painting the people who have NF when I could be painting pictures to sell to raise money for a NF Charity? This is the latter question I always get asked. And, before I go any further, I would recommend both, but I want to discuss the role of portraiture and how it serves to promote the mission of NF awareness and education that I am most interested in promoting.

According to the traditional view, in a successful portrait, the viewer is confronted with the both the person portrayed and the subjectivity of the portrait painter. In his book, Portraiture, Richard Brilliant makes the assertion that "Fundamental to portraits as a distinct genre in the vast repertoire of artistic representation is the necessity of expressing this intended relationship between the portrait image and the human original". This comment also suggests the notion that the portrait refers to a human being who exists outside the portrait. Unlike photographic portraits used for medical and legal identification purposes, the painted portrait is more than documentation; it is a consolidation of the interior essence of an individual combined with his or her external physiognomy. A successful portrait was to be either an exact replication of someone's external appearance or the artist's interpretation of that person's inner or ideal self. Most portraits, therefore, up until the twentieth century represented a formality of the portrait-making situation. In order to indicate the solemnity of the occasion and the timelessness of the portrait image in general, the sitter would sit in a formal pose. This rationale was used to show how important this general, statesman, writer, public figure, or other important individual was and to also depict him or her taking his role seriously.

Prior to the nineteenth century, only nobility and royalty were subjects of portraiture, so the idea of selecting someone to paint and portraying his or her identity based on what accomplishments he or she had done was a shift in the genre. This freedom also empowered the authority of the artist by implying that worthiness of being portrayed was dependent upon having a relationship with the artist. Today, rather than being strictly commissioned, artists can decide who they shall paint and thereby embarking in this genre of portrait painting assign the declaration of "I am painting you...therefore you are important to the gaze of the onlooker".

The next question is "Why paint portraits of people with NF?" NF is short for Neurofibromatosis, which is a mouthful to say, even worse to live with it. As far as the artwork specifically, I’m using gulf wax, conte crayons, and watercolor. More important than the media used is the intent behind the project. The portraits are a way to show people suffering from this disorder that beauty is not truly defined by genetic code. A lot of people with NF feel embarrassed physically because of its manifestations, some of which tend to be disfiguring. Some of this comes from our western culture's preoccupation with the ideals of "beauty" as it pertains only to an exterior physiognomy. Any stroll past a magazine rack will demonstrate our obsession with physical perfection in the excessive photoshopped displays of models gracing every magazine cover.

It’s my goal to try my best to show the world that there is a more relevant and truer form of beauty and one that does not just focus on fleeting external factors. The public needs to see more than external indicators; they need to see the wonderful people who happen to have this disorder. Because of this project I have been able to meet all sorts of wonderful people and so when I paint, I do not see bumps and tumors, rather, I see loving people, creative people, funny people, dynamic people. I don’t believe NF defines a person, I just believe people happen to have NF. NF is more common than you might think happening 1 in 3000 births, and yet, in my experience, very few have heard of it. Perhaps, I also paint to give comfort to those suffering and to those mothers who have children with NF as well. To let them know that there is someone out there that will not say “Neuro…huh?” but rather, "Yes. I know what you are going through too".

Most people who know me, also know that there is one obvious portrait missing in my project. Painting is a process just as dealing with NF is a process. There will be a day when I will be ready to tackle that portrait, today, however in not the day. In the meantime, if I can bring a bit of awareness, joy and compassion to an NF family then I feel that I have done something positive. And, really, when we look past our own needs and wants and focus on a greater ideal, I think we help to create important dialogues and understandings on a global scale. Hopefully, these portraits will serve as humble tributes to all of the people I have painted. It truly is my honor to paint them.

1 comment:

  1. Those are sad to look at but those people still seem to have a positive outlook on life. I just pray my facial plexiform never gets that large as it grows very slowly about the same size since my last MRI a year ago. I myself try to have a good outlook on life also.