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Pain Strikes 

Eglee Gimon 

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: Painting created on watercolor paper; watercolors used for the background, pastels used for lightning bolt and tree.

Like a lightning bolt that comes from nowhere pain paralyzes you and breaks you inside and out. Shattered, you can barely stand in the midst of this thunderstorm; everything around you looks densely gloomy... it is hard to see a way out.

There Are Choices 

Hafsah Syed 

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: The methodology of photo-elicitation was used to produce the photograph. The participant freely chose how to visually represent his first-hand, authentic experience. No changes have been made to the photograph. 

This photograph was received as part of my study, supported by the University of Calgary, Mitacs Research Training Award, and the Mabbott Leadership Award. Participants with chronic pain were invited to take digital photographs to represent their lived experiences, through a methodology called photo-elicitation. We explored the relationship between chronic pain and animal companionship. A human-animal bond may shape the experience of living with chronic pain; one participant— with 10 years of chronic pain— shared this photograph and elaborates: "He never leaves my side. He's saved my life, in more ways than one. There are choices to live or die. Whether to take your life or not— there's always a choice— but my dog is my choice to stay here. To me, the medications are a way out of the pain— I've got so many lying around the house, it's very easy to take them all— but he's always here for me. [My psychologist] asked me 'what keeps you here?' It's my dog, 100% of the time. He doesn't know— he would just never see me again, and that would be the worse thing ever— that keeps me from doing anything. There are choices and, hopefully, always the right one."

The Colors of the Pain Experience 

Louise Castillo 

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: This painting was first outlined using pencil, and developed with brush strokes using acrylic paint on white canvas. 

Chronic pain colors many aspects of one’s life. It shades one’s work, relationships, and self-care, leading to suffering and for some, loss of employment, physical mobility, and identity. Living with pain is emotionally stressful; some may feel trapped by their own thoughts and/or immersed in a cycle of avoidant behaviors with an aim to reduce their pain. Pain can limit a life previously known across the lifespan—an experience that can be devastatingly isolating. Yet, in the midst of that, many live through the daily peaks and pitfalls of the totality of the pain experience–experiencing a host of other emotions colored by strength and resilience in the face of adversity.

Sucked in by Pain: Reaching the Light at the End of the Tunnel. 

Mathieu Piché 

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: Acrylic painting 

Pain gives the impression of imminent death, like a crooked tree that lost all its leaves. At the border of madness, the light at the end of the tunnel is there, but unreachable. Leaf by leaf, branch by branch, you break apart, stuck in an inner subspace, dissociated from reality.


Chloe Fleisher 

People with Lived Experience Category

Description of the Techniques: Colored pencil sketch with layering and blending of colors. 

I am a 13-year girl who has lived with chronic pain for more than 5 years. I drew this image to express how I sometimes feel when I'm in pain -like I am drowning or submerged. The pain consumes my whole body. I am helpless and there is nothing I can do to stop the suffering or to help myself. Note: THe art work was submitted by the parent of a child with chronic pain and medical complexity. The author of the art submission is her 13 year old daughter Chloe Fleisher

Chronic Invisibility 

Patricia Simmons 

People with Lived Experience Category

Description of the Techniques: I applied painter’s tape to a white canvas. Ten acrylic paint colors were mixed and applied with small brushes and Q-tips. I used my iPhone 6 to photograph the sun illuminating the painting and the shadow of my own hand. I used iPhoto to edit. 

Chakras correspond to the energy centres located in the body that affect our emotional and physical wellbeing. Balance and openness are key. The major chakras are often represented by seven colours ordered vertically. In Reiki, a pendulum held over a chakra moves clockwise to indicate that it’s open, counterclockwise to indicate closed, and in a straight line to indicate half-open/closed. My chakra colours are disordered, and my circular and linear brushstrokes mimic the movements of the pendulum. I gestured towards a dysregulated body and the constant struggle to establish balance. The globe/eyeball suggests that each person is a world unto themselves, an internal mystery that cannot readily be apprehended or measured. So much is going on behind the eyes, in the body, in the mind. The shadow of my hand turned upward is at once a site of pain and a gesture of reaching for help. The seven colors associated with the major chakras correspond to the seven colors of visible light. While they function almost metaphorically in the chakra system to render visible the light within, invisible energy, I have used the chakra system and its colors to render visible another kind of invisibility—the subjective experience of pain.

Turning to Stone 

Terry Wilde 

People with Lived Experience Category

Description of the Techniques: Watercolor on Paper  

My late wife Lili Painted this in 2003 after full body Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) set in, triggered by a car accident in 1999. She had full-bodied Pain except in the left side of her face. At this point in her life she had no tolerated pain medications due to severe allergies. Suicide or Medically Assisted Death was a constant battle. This Image depicts the struggle with pain and loss of ability, while showing the life in the left side of her face, the one place she could escape to. After many years of struggle and Healthcare Harm, she died in 2019 with a strong will to live.

Entangled: Persistent Pain and Mental Health 

Sandra Woods 

People with Lived Experience Category

Description of the Techniques: Eight successively darker colors were used, and after each dried some areas of the watercolor were protected from subsequent colors. 

Chronic pain affects more women than men. We don’t know why, because past research has mostly involved men. Added to that historic unfairness, women’s pain has often been ignored or even disbelieved by doctors and nurses. So many women in pain end up feeling traumatized, simply from trying to get medical help with their pain. Constant pain can interfere with your sleep, concentration and focus, ability to plan your daily tasks – and sometimes your ability to look after yourself and your loved ones. You might have to cut back on your work hours, or to stop working altogether. These are just a few of the impacts of chronic pain on a person’s life. Pain can lead to financial problems, unstable housing, child custody issues, and more. It’s no wonder that many people who live with pain also have mental health problems. This painting is meant to show the different mental health burdens caused by chronic pain… The pain itself, always there, and worries about the future: Will the pain ever end? What will be the impact of pain on your family, finances, friendships, job, or studies? How can you explain your pain to others, if they can’t even see it?

Lost and Found

Jonie Moffitt-Falbo 

People with Lived Experience Category

Description of the Techniques: Painted acrylic on canvas 

Personal acrylic paintings of my journey through mental and physical pain. Pain creates a darkness. It chains the body, and entraps the mind. My existence is dissolving, my sense of self is all but gone. Pain physically and mentally have become my jail cell. After pain management, the chains are broken, my mind begins to sense freedom and feel the light. The jail has cracked open. The pain is still there but it no longer rules me. My mind is clearer, my soul is at peace. Finally, I know I will be okay.

Constellations of Chronic Pain and Depression Research: A Network Visualisation 

Abhimanyu Sud 

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: Created using Gephi 0.9.2 for generating the network, Adobe Illustrator for labelling pain and intervention types, and Microsoft Office PowerPoint for outputting in video format. 

People living with chronic pain often experience depression, but understanding and treating these two conditions together can be very difficult.To get a better idea of which treatments might improve depression for people with chronic pain, systematic reviews have been conducted to compile results from multiple clinical trials. These reviews usually focus on one type of chronic pain or a certain kind of treatment. An umbrella review then compiles the results from multiple systematic reviews, to get the broadest possible picture. An umbrella review can tell us what kinds of treatments have been studied for the effects on depression, and for what kinds of chronic pain conditions. This network visualization shows a constellation of 83 systematic reviews (grey dots), and the 459 clinical trials that they synthesise (blue dots when included by one systematic review; green dots when included by more than one). Looking at the network of systematic reviews and clinical trials, we identified groups based on types of treatments (labels and outlines) and kinds of chronic pain conditions (coloured clouds). This network visualization provides a big picture view of research on depression and chronic pain, and the gaps that are worth investigating in future studies and reviews.

Dans Vraie Vie / In Real Life  

Justine Benoit-Piau 

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: This number was choreographed by Christophe Benoit-Piau and Justine Benoit-Piau. It was presented at the event "Exprime-toi pour la santé" by the Center of excellence in neurosciences of Université de Sherbrooke. 

After a touching meeting with a mother who lost one of her daughters to suicide, the choreographers were inspired by the images that emerged from her during this discussion. Through chaos and black holes, through a parallel life, the effect of grief on mental health is the main source of inspiration for the latter portion of this project. In introduction to this dance, a presentation by Pr Pascal Tétreault was done on the personal experience of pain and the factors that influence it, which can be biological, psychological or social. He also explains how chronic pain can have a deleterious effect on mental health. Psychological pain, as one would experience when losing a loved one in a traumatic way, can activate similar brain parts as the ones that would be activated by physical pain. The use of dancers in this creation enabled the researcher to convey his words in movement, more efficiently, than with a simple PowerPoint presentation. Each movement was specifically choreographed to portray the words of Pr Tétreault and the words of the mother who tragically lost her daughter. Presenter : Pascal Tétreault PhD Dancers : Christophe Benoit-Piau, Justine Benoit-Piau, Véronique Perreault, Élizabeth Tremblay, Léanne Boudreau.

Captured Flashes of Lived Experience in Pediatric Pain: Illuminating the Voices of Marginalized Youth 

Samantha Noyek  

Trainee/research Category

Description of the Techniques: Interviews were facilitated and filmed by the artist. FiLMiC Pro App was used to capture videos and ensure appropriate focus, exposure, lighting etc. OpenShot Video Editor was used to put together all mixed media, add transitions/music/effects. 

Pain experiences of youth with brain-based developmental disabilities are more likely to be overlooked and/or misinterpreted, especially when youth are unable to self-express their pain through speaking, writing (using paper and pencil), or typing (with a standard computer-keyboard). This video was developed through a Science Communication Course at the University of Calgary, to relay research through media. The content presents pictures and video clips that provide insight about ongoing research being led by Dr. Samantha Noyek and a team of researchers, clinicians, families, and lived experience experts. Interview clips are woven throughout to highlight pain experiences of youth and families. The video came forth as an idea stemming from a systematic review we have conducted that maps the scope of self and observer-reported pain assessment measures of youth with brain-based developmental disabilities. Next steps of our research will provide pain assessment recommendations for this group of youth. Continued efforts will involve a World Café, bringing together diverse stakeholders to set research priorities in this area. This video was shared through social media outputs including Twitter and Facebook. The intended audience of the video includes families, researchers, and clinicians, highlighting the necessity of making this area a critical research focus

The theme was “Pain and Mental Health”.

Created to better understand pain through an artistic lens.  With a new theme each year, we showcase submitted artwork from a variety of mediums to promote scientific curiosity and build a gallery of artwork related to pain.

2022 Art Award Submissions

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