Daniela Vergaray, a sophomore, created an art portfolio based on her experience dealing with the hardships and triumphs that followed her diagnosis of Type 1 Diabetes.
Diagnosed at 10 years old, Vergaray said she had to mature quickly in order to cope with the restricted lifestyle of a diabetic.
She realized that dealing with diabetes is a matter of maintaining a heightened sense of precaution that can be emotionally draining.
“Being a kid, you want to be carefree and do whatever you want, but you have to be strict with your life,” Vergaray said. “You have to make sure you’re doing everything correctly.”
Vergaray said she found solace in creating art after taking introductory classes at the age of 13. Once she explored various artistic mediums and realized how therapeutic it was for her, she took to art as a means of coming to terms with her diagnosis.
“After I was diagnosed, it became like a coping mechanism,” Vergaray said. “It was my way to vent.”
Vergaray’s mother, Gabriela Vergaray, said art helped her daughter to not think of her disease as something that is difficult to live with or as a roadblock in her path, rather as something that she is capable of living a normal life with.
In recent years, Vergaray said she realized she could do her part to rectify a societal misrepresentation of Diabetes through her art.
Her urge to spread awareness about Diabetes came to be only after she felt comfortable sharing her experiences, she said.
She said that it was not easy to take an inward experience and turn it into an outward expression. Vergaray said she has a greater appreciation for artists whose work renders similar themes.
“Obviously, I wanted people to know what Diabetes is like,” Vergaray said. “It isn’t easy. Putting it out there shows people that it is a very real struggle that a lot of people deal with.”
One of her influences is Vincent Van Gogh, who compelled some of the inspiration that Vergaray applied to this portfolio.
“(Van Gogh) had a lot of issues and a mental illness,” Vergaray said. “But, he painted very beautiful, optimistic things.”
This ironic method of painting resonated with Vergaray, because she said she too found comfort in taking an optimistic stance in an otherwise painful situation.
This theme is present in her collection through the use of bright colors in geometric forms. Although that is not to say that she overlooks the pain that Diabetes has caused her, which is reflected in the blue hues of the paintings, Vergaray said.
Vergaray used different sizes of bristol paper with oil paint and a gesso applied over top to create most of her pieces.
She said she pasted on real-life items like the blue test strips that check her blood sugar levels and wrappers from needles. Some of the paintings employ a pixel effect to portray the careful role that diabetics must embody in order to stay healthy, and the “closeness” they must watch themselves with.
Vergaray continues to strive for a healthy relationship with herself and to transform her experience into a representation for what she believes people consider an “invisible disease.”
Her art has been featured in the art district of Miami during a senior show that showcased ten talented students. That experience brought forth a sense of excitement for Vergaray, and seeing the product of her passion garner a positive response makes her eager to continue creating art.
Vergaray’s empowered persona is an example of how art has shaped her life and her life has shaped her art.
“Knowing that I transferred a part of me into my art is such a wholesome feeling,” Vergaray said.