The book “Visions: Artists Living with Epilepsy,” was presented to the Cleveland Bradley County Library on Nov. 15 to celebrate November as the National Epilepsy Awareness Month. Library Director Andy Hunt accepted the donation from Cleveland Daily Banner Writer Bettie Marlowe in honor of the late Jacqui Streeton, an artist who suffered from epilepsy and used art to promote epilepsy awareness. He recalled talking with Streeton about the book during one of her art shows at the library. Hunt said it was an honor to receive the book, which includes several of her paintings as well as her painting of Dr. Steven Schachter, who edited the book.
Rita Fielding, Education Services director for the Epilepsy Foundation of Southeast Tennessee, participated in the presentation. She said, “We are honored to be here today to participate in the generous donation to Cleveland Public Library. Jacqui Streeton had a positive effect on many, including those living with epilepsy and we are grateful for her efforts in raising awareness. It is also our goal at Epilepsy Foundation to increase awareness. One way we do this by educating groups such as police officers, teachers, school nurses and EMTs about seizure recognition and first aid.
“We work closely with Dr. Kundu here in Cleveland,” Fielding added, offering case management to clients he refers to us. And he has been kind enough to speak at our monthly support group. We are also grateful to Cherokee Pharmacy for allowing us to provide prescription assistance to many clients through their pharmacy.
Fielding said, “The Epilepsy Foundation is proud to be here during National Epilepsy Awareness Month to honor Jacqui Streeton and thank Cleveland Public Library and Bettie from the Cleveland Daily Banner for inviting us to participate.”
From being a social outcast due to her unrecognized epilepsy, Streeton — “The Thornbird” — has gone to international recognition as an artist who spoke about the enigma through her work. Her goal was to prove epileptics are not helpless and they can accomplish goals in life. With thanks to the Epilepsy Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and Epi-Care Regional Center in Memphis, Streeton said, “One ripple in my spirit illuminated my life with knowledge from my proper diagnoses of brain damage and epilepsy.”
“Visions: Artists Living with Epilepsy” (Elsevier Inc.) is a compilation of art by epilepsy survivors and is edited by Schachter. With the participation of the Epilepsy Foundation of America, Schachter combined the works of 32 international artists, along with their biographies to create this one-of-a-kind publication.
The volume is packed with the most touching, haunting and expressive images of art and biographies which reveal the “very soul of epilepsy survivors,” Streeton said of “Visions.”
She said her professional and personal experiences behooved her “to educate people about epilepsy (a temporary loss of autonomy), through this awesome book.”
Included in the beautiful, coffee-table deluxe edition is Streeton’s painting of St. Valentine, which was published in the Cleveland Banner in 1995 — both to commemorate Valentine’s Day and promote epilepsy awareness.
When she did the St. Valentine painting, Streeton said, “In searching for answers to questions about my epilepsy, I began writing to epilepsy associations around the world.
She said she was told constantly how hard it is to find epilepsy answers and the difficulties folks have understanding what epilepsy is. Streeton felt “Visions: Artists Living with Epilepsy” is the most educational, unique book one could hope for. She called it an “epilepsy forum” for anyone searching epilepsy education.
A painting of Schachter by Streeton was chosen to grace the inside of the book’s jacket (instead of an actual photograph of the doctor). Streeton’s biography is also included in the book.
Endorsed by the Epilepsy Foundation, “Visions: Artists Living with Epilepsy” captures beautiful and insightful images by artists touched by epilepsy. The deluxe edition of the book contains all of the more than 200 full-color art reproductions from the book. Each piece of art was created by artists who have epilepsy.
Streeton was especially known for her work with young epilepsy victims. She involved them with art projects as a way to express their feelings and goals and has arranged for art shows to display their works. Her own paintings grace the halls of universities around the world and her writings on epilepsy have found their way into medical journals. His Holiness Pope John Paul II was one of her subjects as Streeton “became inspired to paint his portrait as part of an exhibit, “Unification 2000.”
That exhibit, which was shown at the Cleveland Bradley County Public Library, Streeton said, spoke “through the eyes as opposed to the ears,” demonstrating no matter what our disabilities, colors, nationalities or differences, “we all have the same basic desire for peace and unification.”
The exhibit was dedicated to Schachter at Harvard Medical School, Boston, who, she said, shared her art internationally and to Dr. Troy Gilson of Cleveland, “who spirited my soul with the winds of peace.”
Streeton said her own personal experiences with epilepsy and organic brain syndrome, which has left her with amnesia challenges, taught her how very much “we are all really ‘one,’ no matter what our differences are.”
Street said her own personal experiences empowered her with knowledge and “art is my voice to help others.”