Reducing Stigma and Promoting Awareness Through Art
Positive Exposure Presents: Vascular Birthmark Portrait Show
by Celina Leroy
I create paintings of faces and bodies with vascular birthmarks such as Port Wine Stain Birthmarks, Venous Malformations, Sturge-Weber Syndrome, and Klippel-Trenaunay Syndrome.
I was born with a Port Wine Stain Birthmark (PWS) on my chin, lip and cheek. A PWS is a congenital, cutaneous and progressive vascular malformation and appears as a reddish pink to dark purple mark on the skin. An estimated 3 out of 1,000 babies are born with a PWS birthmark.
Since most of the malformations occur on the face, it can have devastating psychological and physical effects such as bullying, social exclusion, and low self esteem. I personally faced bullying many times in my life and hope to use my artwork to end the stigma surrounding facial differences.
I was inspired to begin this project after joining the Vascular Birthmark Foundation (VBF) and connected with people from around the world; New York, Miami, Texas, Florida, the UK, Brazil etc. We were all so different but our shared experience joined us. To me their birthmarks were like beautiful maps and islands of colors across their skin. I was inspired to do an art project not just about myself but them too. After posting to social media, I was flooded with requests from people and families to paint their portraits. I loved seeing their joyful reaction to the work. Along with the art I asked a series of questions to capture their voice and story, which can be seen in the bios and videos surrounding the portraits.
If you have any type of physical difference, remember you are not alone. I urge you to join a group, like VBF and be a part of the community.