Boston-based artist Bethany Noël Murray has found a way to channel her migraines into painting. The series, entitled Migraines in Nature, explores the sensory overload that accompanies the condition, including the ocular disturbances called “auras.” By viewing these kaleidoscopic landscapes—distorted by migraines—the artist hopes people will find unexpected joy in the natural world around them.
Before pursuing art, Murray studied biochemistry at Reed College for two years. Afterward, she transferred to the Rhode Island School of Design and graduated with a BFA in Painting. It was there that the artist began to merge her interest in her own headache disorder with her creative work. “I have had chronic migraines for over twenty years of my life,” Murray says. “I began making paintings to show the incredible beauty that accompanies this strange neurological condition, as I have always been fascinated at the neurobiology behind the imagery I see.” Most of the paintings in the series are based in heavily wooded forests, which the artist explains is often a refuge for her to avoid strong light. To illustrate her visual symptoms of auras, macroscopia, and microscopia, Murray distorts the landscapes with expressive waves, large areas of fractured color, and bursts of white light.
The artist describes the series of paintings as having an Alice in Wonderland feeling to them. Each forest scene shows a world of magnified color, which borders on fantasy. To achieve this, Murray works with white and black gesso—using “the black of the canvas to be the shadow, and adding the light in a swirling, patterning effect that mimics the aura I see all the time.” This heavy contrast makes each piece from the series stand out as a unique visual encounter. “My paintings have been proof to myself of what I experience during an attack, and despite the pain, I’ve made the choice to see the good, weird, and beautiful,” says Murray.
To keep up to date with the artist’s latest creations, including upcoming exhibitions, you can follow her on Instagram.