How Modern Art Can Help Raise Awareness for Diabetes

How Modern Art Can Help Raise Awareness for Diabetes

By Agne Kisonaite

We live in interesting times. The interconnected world allows artists to reach wider and more diverse audiences. But the global attention span is getting shorter. Yes, art is getting closer to people – but it doesn’t automatically translate into a stronger impact. So the real question of today is not art’s availability. The question is: “Does art have anything meaningful to say?”

As an artist, I’m a strong believer in the immense power that creativity holds. Art can cut big complex ideas into digestible chunks and deliver it to people in the most relatable way. Great art touches you. It changes you. And I think that is the problem with today’s art: in many ways, it is still not brave enough. Still too nice, too soft, too silent. Not really stepping up.

Which (of course) pushes me in the opposite direction.

Diabetes and New Shapes of Creativity

I have been working as a professional artist for almost a decade now – mainly focusing on paintings, but also introducing furniture design, handmade carpets, and art installations to the mix. I was honored with a Lithuanian National Design Award in 2015. In the same year, my art object “Lipstick Tower” was exhibited in Hong Kong and broke the Guinness World Record for the largest lipstick sculpture. Pretty good, right?

But there’s a dark side, too. I was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes back in 2012. And it hit extremely hard. Several upcoming years would become what I call my “years of survival.” Countless hours in bed. Countless pill bottles. And countless questions that nobody seemed to have answers to. That’s when my art became my savior. In these pitch-black times, I never stopped creating.

And it sure as hell added depth to my artistic pursuits.

On the Way to Build Greater Awareness

Diabetes is on the rise across the globe. And yet, this disease is surrounded by stigma and misinformation.

So I came up with an idea: to draw attention to the issue by creating an art object from 5000 used insulin syringes, collected from people with diabetes. Syringes would be glued to one another, forming a statue of a woman on a chair, injecting insulin into her abdomen. Pairing aesthetical appeal and shock value, I wanted to uncover multiple layers of meaning: the growth of diabetes in the world (expressed by the scary quantity of syringes used), the constraints this disease puts on the body (represented by the humble sitting position), and, of course, the hope we all share – that one day there would be a widely accessible cure. The upcoming step for this art object is an exhibition in the United Arab Emirates.

installation art insulin syringes

Installation art and image by Agne Kisonaite

But that’s not all. I also explored how contemporary artwork could incorporate diabetic test strips. My painting from used test strips was donated to Kaunas clinics to mark the occasion of World Diabetes Day. This was just the first painting from the series of artwork devoted to the family theme – so let’s see what the future holds.

diabetes painting - diabetic test

Painting and image by Agne Kisonaite

I believe one of the critical characteristics of high-quality art is courage. Courage to shed some light on sensitive issues that people are still too shy to talk about. And (hopefully!) to provide some hope for those on a similar journey of acceptance.

How Responsible Should Art Be?

Health is just one piece of the puzzle. The environmental crisis, climate change, waste management – these are hot-button global issues today. And artists have the potential to speak to people in ways that could shake them more deeply than cold facts alone.

That’s why I love creating art installations from second-hand materials: used insulin syringes, used lipsticks, empty nail polish bottles, and plastic straw. I find it fascinating how strong ideas can manifest through unconventional material means. My goal is to highlight alarming consumption patterns and encourage actions that are more socially responsible.

As an artist, I have no intention of producing nuggets of hard truth. But I do believe that every great art piece holds a mirror to the person viewing it. Who are you? What are your deep values? What positive change could you bring to the world?

Art may not be our ultimate answer to everything.

But it definitely helps to raise better questions.

About the Author

As a professional artist, Agne Kisonaite transforms everyday objects into creative art & design. Her work includes paintings, sculptures, furniture, and handmade rug designs, as well as art venue staging. Check out her portfolio on her website.

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Read more about diabetes awareness, insulin, Intensive management, mental health.

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