Olea Nova’s series Piercing Conflict is one of the most masterful visual depictions of Migraine I have come across – and I keep my eyes open for that kind of thing. Despite not living with Migraine disease herself, Nova conducted interviews with headache specialists and patients to get a close understanding of what Migraine feels like and how disruptive it can be. In fact, her series of Migraine art is to true to life that it lead to a subsequent series of art showing what it’s like to live with cluster headache.

piercing conflict

Migraine in a Split

“Portraying what another person feels without experiencing the symptoms myself was challenging and exciting,” Nova says. “I don’t have migraines. And I believe that this is an advantage. I am not comparing what I hear from others with personal knowledge, this way my own experiences are not ‘getting in a way’ of the creative process.’”

Interview with Olea Nova, Artist behind Piercing Conflict

Angie Glaser:  First, tell me a little bit more about you and your background as an artist. How do your training in art and your training in psychology complement each other?

Olea Nova:  I made the Piercing Conflict series of works shortly after immigrating to America and before graduating from the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Before coming to America, I graduated from the University of Humanities and Social Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia, where I studied the Theory and History of Culture. What interested me then is how to create and disseminate meaning through different cultural channels.  I took several psychology courses as well as read books on Psychology from my family library. I like to travel to look at art and architecture from different cultures, try new things and to transform what I have learned within my work.

Angie Glaser:  What inspired you to paint an in-depth look at Migraine in Piercing Conflict?

Olea Nova:  A migraine researcher approached me to illustrate a migraine headache from the verbal descriptions of symptoms experienced by a person with migraines. I don’t have migraines myself and I had to do research about the illness. I was interested to learn about what happens in the brain during an attack. Then I interviewed several people with migraines to have a better understanding of how they describe what they feel and how they see symptoms with their ‘internal eye.’  I attempted to see their pain with their eyes and then made my paintings. 

piercing conflict

In the Vaccuum

Angie Glaser: What are common misconceptions about living with Migraine that you want to shed light on with these paintings? 

Olea Nova: After talking to people with debilitating headaches I understood how important it is to bring awareness about the disease to the public space to increase access to treatment and research more treatments. By documenting migraine experiences in a visually accessible form, I wanted to show people who suffer that they are not alone and to help people who don’t have migraines understand what a migraine is.

Angie Glaser: How did you arrive at the title Piercing Conflict?

Olea Nova:  Many people with Migraine described their pain as piercing, and this pain is a cause of many conflicts in their personal and professional lives.

Angie Glaser: Have you shared your work with the public? What has the reaction been and has it been different from people who have Migraine themselves and those who do not?

Olea Nova: I have exhibited this series of works publicly at the Wisconsin Department of Administration in Madison, WI and The Chicago School of Professional Psychology in 2002. The work was featured in The Capital Times article “Mirroring Migraine” by Kevin Lynch, on the cover of Northeast Florida Medicine, and other educational seminars, print and online resources. Usually, I receive comments and feedback about the work from those who suffer or from medical professionals. Most comments I receive by email via my website where this series of works is featured.

I made most of the paintings in the Piercing Conflict series between 1988 and 2001. All later work, from 2007 and 2011, was a result of people contacting me about my work.  I wrote about this on my webpage dedicated to Cluster Headaches.

Angie Glaser:  What is next for you? Where can we see more of your work and connect with you further? 

Olea Nova: Currently, I make paintings, sound compositions, objects and video, and my main focus is non-objective form. I post my recent work on my website www.oleanova.com, and people can follow my current work on Instagram

Desire of Freedom

To see more paintings in the series Piercing Conflict check out MigraineArtwork.com

Comments? Do the paintings in Piercing Conflict resonate with you?

Images: Olea Nova. Published with Permission

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Recent MigraineAgain.com video

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