Laura was diagnosed with the neurological sleep/wake disorder narcolepsy in 1995 just before the age of 26. As the typical story goes with an invisible chronic illness, she knew for years that something was wrong but could not figure out exactly what – teen angst, depression, simple boredom with the world? Finally, while watching a local Columbus news broadcast about a man who had killed another in a highway car accident after falling asleep at the wheel with an undiagnosed case of narcolepsy, she knew what was wrong. Within a month, she was officially diagnosed through the modafinil (Provigil) drug trials at a local sleep disorders center.The scientific importance of narcolepsy is that it is a sleep disorder the blurs the line between sleep and wakefulness caused by malfunctions in the primary brain mechanisms that induce normal sleep. Therefore, understanding how it works will inevitably help us understand how sleep works for all of us. It may sound strange, but Laura is honored that upon her death, her brain will be donated to the Stanford University Center for Narcolepsy for research and study to help others.
This has had a huge impact on her ability to work in the world of finance. Because of her daily struggles with narcolepsy and the need for naps, she has not been able to hold even a part-time job. Medications have helped but are in no way a cure. The naps come on as a strong wave of sleepiness that she cannot fight so she either purposely takes a nap at this point or it will take her. No matter how much nightly sleep she gets, the naps are a necessity. As she states: “In past jobs, I could be seen with my head bobbling in + out of sleep at my computer as my brain fell into a vivid dream. It was impossible to complete my work.” Due to these health issues, she receives support from SSDI (social security disability insurance benefits) which has truly been a lifesaver for her and her family.
Laura’s artwork is often born in those moments she spends in an undetermined yet familiar place somewhere between dreams and the reality of wakefulness. Being a visual artist, she considers her true artwork to be conceptual and experimental, mainly using mixed media. For instance,she created a pillow of nails with a poem that spoke of the yin and yang of being asleep and awake.Because she has narcolepsy, much of her work revolves around the theme of sleep and dreams. In addition, she makes pendent necklaces, art blocks, and other more crafty things. “My ideas seem endless. Well most of the time” Boy, doesn’t that sound familiar?
Her inspiration comes from other artists, other artwork; especially conceptual work as found with the Fluxus and Surrealist movements She has a great admiration of Andy Warhol and how he brought so many people together to create so called ‘art’ – the idea that art can be literally anything, anywhere.
Recently, she has been playing around with photo transfer and gel mediums because she loves the potential results thanks to the instruction from Katie Hofacker, an inspiring artist and teacher. Although still at the playing/learning stage of things, she would love to someday share these techniques with others through her work.
She is a member of Art Party and sells with them at local arts festivals and shows.She also shows at Pearl Alley Market on occasion, participates in CrestFest and is a member of the Art and Artists of 614. On June 7th she will be vending at the Punk Rock Flea Market at Thrill Vulture Tattoo in Westerville.
If you happen to know someone with narcolepsy, please contact Laura for information about a locally organized support group called ’N in Columbus, Ohio’.