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Suffering for Art: Headaches on Canvas

March 05, 2001|ROSIE MESTEL

I've just returned to work after five days of coughing, sniffing, sneezing and long hours staring zombie-style at Ricki Lake and Judge Judy. It wasn't pretty. In fact, I'm tempted to create an artistic rendering of the experience so you really know how I felt. (On my palette: rawest red for lips and nostrils, ash white for the face, limpid blue for water streaming endlessly from my eyes, pea green for--never mind.)

I don't know why it is, but I have never seen a painting depicting the agony of having the sniffles. Headaches: That's another matter. You can view lots of yow-inducing headache paintings--in which hammers, nails, drills and vices feature heavily--at the "art museum" of the American Council for Headache Education (http://www.achenet.org/museum).

And, if you aspire to greatness, check out the recently announced "Migraine Masterpiece" competition at the National Headache Foundation's Web site (http://www.headaches.org.)

Yes, migraine sufferers: Fame soon could be thumping-thumping-thumping at your door! Win first place and you'll get $4,000 and a trip to the opening of the art exhibition, all expenses paid! But be warned: Competition is tough, if the past winners are anything to go by. (View them at http://www.headaches.org/gallery/gallery.html.) And no cheating! To enter the contest (the deadline for entries is May 1), you have to be a diagnosed migraine sufferer.

Suzanne Simons, the foundation's executive director, says the contest serves a purpose: Art is good therapy for patients, and the artwork can graphically bring home to others just how awful a migraine can be.

Plus there's a reason migraine art is more interesting than bad-cold art: Migraines are often preceded by visual anomalies that the artists sometimes incorporate into their work. We're talking things like jagged or wavy lines, bright light, stars--plus images of people that are lopsided or otherwise distorted, says Dr. Seymour Diamond, a Chicago headache expert who is also executive chairman of the headache foundation.

Diamond notes that the Italian painter Giorgio de Chirico was a known migraine sufferer and many of his pictures had wavy lines and other distortions that could have been migraine-inspired. And, Diamond adds, Lewis Carroll, author of "Alice in Wonderland," also suffered from migraines. Migraine hallucinations might have inspired some of Alice's strange experiences.

It's even been suggested by some that Pablo Picasso was influenced by migraine-like visual distortions. This seems like a bit of a stretch, given there's no evidence that Picasso got migraines. Maybe he just liked painting jagged and jumbled up.

Tooth Jewelry Trend Makes Dentists Shudder

I recently told my 11-year-old daughter that tongue posts (those attractive studs of metal that are threaded through holes pierced in the tongue) are not a good idea. Aesthetic considerations aside, they can lead to infections as well as bash against the teeth, causing microfractures.

Evidently I am unhip and behind the times, because I've just learned that tongue posts are so, so yesterday. Say hello to a new hot trend: cementing cute, glittery jewelry directly to the teeth. Some dentists, understandably, frown on this practice as well.

"It limits access to the teeth during cleaning," says Dr. Sinaida Kniter, a dentist at the Hollywood Smile Center. The result, she says: Plaque buildup that could cause demineralization and decay as well as spots on the teeth when the jewels are removed.

Sticking jewels on teeth can also scratch your inner lip, says Dr. Eric Shapira, a dentist in Half Moon Bay, Calif. If you're going to get artsy in the mouth, better you do so on crowns or dentures than real teeth, he says. Over the years, when patients request it, he's placed hearts, rubies, horseshoes and pearls on dentures or crowns--even tattooed a picture or two. (A podiatrist patient of his sports a little pink foot on a crown.)

Shapira frowns on the practice of setting jewels into holes drilled in teeth. "We've got enough holes in our bodies as it is," he says.

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If you have an idea for a topic, send to Rosie Mestel at the Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012, or e-mail her at rosie.mestel@latimes.com.

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