Caregivers surrender their lives to function within the worlds of the people they care for. So, from 1999 until 2013, I gathered skills I needed to become a caregiver for my nonagenarian parents and younger brother. Decades of experience as a medical doctor helped. But, I couldn’t work as a physician and still have time to be a caregiver. To meet this goal, I had to reconfigure old skills and get new ones. The new skill sets included digital and traditional fine art. I also acquired an MBA. The works submitted were created in memory of my mother.
My mother accepted my transition from medicine to visual art. She marveled at my portfolio and the Internet fascinated her. But, shortly after I moved home following my father’s death in 2013, Mom was diagnosed with breast cancer. Our agenda changed from planning a years-long pajama party, into a life and death struggle. Time needed to navigate the labyrinth of her care cut short her desire to watch me create art. Even my trusted MacBook was too heavy to carry around. A digital camera I bought for my birthday became my last refuge for artistic expression and documentation of our cross-generational journey.
My mother died on December 14, 2015. Creating these portraits and others, helped me to grieve her loss. The artworks submitted were the first of my works accepted for exhibit at Woman Made Gallery, (“Wild Cuts,” 2017). My first WMG acceptance notice arrived via email, as I sat next to my younger brother’s bed in the ICU. The news of my acceptance felt like the calm, welcoming hand of sisterhood. It was a breath of fresh air in a space that could have been creatively stifling. For this I am, thankful.
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Verneda Lights is a visual artist, photographer, performance poet, and published author of poetry and fiction. She is also a retired physician, science writer, and griot of the South Carolina Lowcountry’s Gullahgeechee Nation. Her body of work encompasses digital and traditional fine art, as well as surface pattern design. She is best known for her #Afrosurreal, #Afrofuturistic, #Post-Gullah-Art, and #Techspressionist works, on canvas and paper. Her most recent oeuvre, “Gullah Me,” utilizes technology, abstract portraiture, and photomontages/ collages, as tools for the multidimensional storytelling of her journey as a family caregiver and healer in the rural South. Verneda believes that “art is a medicine, and medicine is an art;” therefore, she uses her art-based storytelling as a medium for stress management in caregiving settings.
A native of the South Carolina Lowcountry, Verneda is a graduate of Bryn Mawr College, the University of Pennsylvania Perelman School of Medicine (MD), and Strayer University (MBA). She also holds a certificate in International Arts Management from the International Leadership Program in Visual Arts Management, a program offered jointly by NYU’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Deusto University Business School, and Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao, Spain). Within the past five years, Verneda’s work has been exhibited at the Whitney Biennial (as part of the Occupy Museums group exhibit), the Albrecht-Kemper Museum of Art, Woman Made Gallery, the Edward M Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate, Barrett Art Center, Trolley Barn Gallery, and The Wrong Biennial.
From April to June 2022, her work will be exhibited at the South Hampton Art Center, as part of the first internationally juried Techspressionist* 2022 exhibit. Verneda’s “Gullah Me” collection is currently showing online, in the Harlem Fine Arts Show platform. She projects that her “Gullah Me” photo book will be available by the end of 2022.
© Verneda Lights