Bethany Noël: Aphasia

Open Door Gallery

November 20, 2023–February 9, 2024

Higgins Education Wing

Bethany Noël, 'Reservoir', 2022, acrylic paint and chalk pastel on white gessoed canvas

Aphasia is the short term inability to remember words, regardless of its complexity. It’s a common experience for many migraineurs and frequently indicates the beginning of a new attack. I have always felt that my primary language is visual and everything else is a translation. This show is a medley of works across ten years and a variety of series, missing some of the words in between.

Artist statement 

I create emotional, subtly surreal large-scale acrylic paintings about my chronic migraine disease’s neurological symptoms as I experience them in nature – think Alice-in-Wonderland meets Narnia.

I developed my own adapted divisionism painting technique to represent what my neurological migraine optical distortion looks like and feels like. I use the physical properties of paint (opacity, gloss) to create the illusion of space and depth. The darkness in my black gessoed paintings is the canvas being revealed, subverting the viewers’ assumptions of primary and secondary objects.

I experience a myriad of different neurological symptoms that I include in my painted worlds, including macroscopia, microscopia, and ocular aura. Daily, I see unsettling but mesmerizing visual artifacts that either partially obscure my view or are a filter, like looking at the world via a fairyland of hazy hot asphalt.

What is painful and disorienting with my disease gives me a key to share the otherworldly beauty of the natural world next to us. Finding beauty in the brush and bramble and representing how I truly experience the world both give me strength to fight the seditious secondary battle any chronically ill person knows – depression. My artwork is an ode to joy despite pain and revealing the beauty of the mundane.

Selected images