Berkeley Gallery Owner, Jeffrey Spahn, Exhibits the Art and Science of T1D

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Jeffrey Spahn was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes (T1D) at age 19, setting him on what felt like a solitary path for over two decades. He recalls, “After an unfortunately brief doctor’s visit, I was basically handed a brochure called ‘Diabetes & You!’ I’ll never forget it. And then, I was left on my own for 23 years. Yes, for 23 years, I never met another person with T1D.”

His story changed when he found Breakthrough T1D. “I found people just like me dealing with the same issues and daily challenges,” he explains. “I even found friends and community, like I had found in the rest of my very vibrant life.”

Now a specialist in ceramic art and 20th-century sculpture, Jeffrey has collaborated with some of the premier museums, universities, public and private collections in the world. The Jeffrey Spahn Gallery focuses on 20th Century American, British, and Japanese studio ceramics (and 20th C. Sculpture). He strives to give back as much as possible, and earlier this year, the idea of hosting an exhibit titled The Art and Science of T1D seemed like a natural endeavor.

“This was a chance to celebrate artists who work with T1D issues and put their lives out there in the world,” Jeffrey says. “I was so impressed and proud to welcome them to my home and gallery.”

The event sparked lively conversations and created meaningful connections within the T1D community.

“I’d like to see researchers, technology professionals, and scientists gain from the creative thinking and humanist mindset of artists and makers,” he adds. “It’s one thing to have tech that works; it’s another to have it thrive, integrated into your life. I think both left and right brain people can learn from each other, and it was the combination of conversations I had that day and since that excites me about the future.”

The artists and their work on display for The Art and Science of T1D exhibit included the following:

Cecilia Brady
Painting for Change

San Francisco artist Cecilia Brady was diagnosed with T1D at age 14 in 2019. Drawing inspiration from the T1D Index, a groundbreaking tool that maps the impact of T1D around the world, Cecilia’s collection of pieces titled Painting for Change unveils a vivid narrative of countries where living with T1D is a profound challenge.

Cecilia says, “To demonstrate the full scope of this disease, I have painted 45 paintings of various countries where living with T1D is a nearly impossible struggle. There are children who look at these views every day, and to them, the mountains and valleys reflect not natural beauty, but the turmoil of their own blood sugar.”

Roz Ritter
Missing Part 1 & II (with Freya Abrams)
Hand embroidery, silk, silk thread, photo transfer

Roz Ritter is a fiber artist from Richmond, CA. Her granddaughter Freya was diagnosed with T1D at the age of seven in 2016.

Roz says, “What I quickly learned was that a type 1 diabetes diagnosis is life-changing, for Freya and for the entire family. While conducting my research, a photo of healthy pancreatic Beta cells (the same cells that Freya is missing) appeared on my computer screen. ‘Wow,’ I thought, ‘how beautiful they are, the colors so magnificent.’ I knew I wanted to embroider them! Part II documents Freya’s first year after her diagnosis, with the first drawing in the series capturing the moment in the doctor’s office on the day she was diagnosed.”

Missing Part 1 & II is dedicated to all the brave and strong children who meet the challenge of type 1 diabetes each day and to finding a cure in her lifetime.

Shelby Christine
Untitled (Clockwork, Test Strips)

 

Shelby Christine is a contemporary artist and ultra runner living with T1D in San Francisco. Shelby’s art explores themes around chronic illness, identity, and life cycles. She says, “Living with T1D has inspired me to hold a mirror of accountability to myself. No one is responsible for managing this disease but me. I try to share the message of responsibility with my art in this regard. I stand for honesty, love, and solidarity. And I believe true justice is for the people, and the planet.”

With Untitled (Clockwork, Test Strips) Shelby examines the common daily practice of testing one’s blood sugar and touches on the inherent rejection the role timelines play when living with a chronic illness.

Jeffrey Spahn’s The Art and Science of T1D showcased diverse perspectives and artistic expressions, and highlighted the role of creativity and community in navigating T1D complexities.