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PRIYA RAMA  Migraine Artist

“Do something creative every day; you’ll be amazed at how happy and peaceful you’ll feel!”

Abstract Expressionist Priya Rama’s paintings, full of color, texture and movement, come from a rather unexpected source: her migraines! Yet, her life has always been a visual journey.

A shy and introverted child, Priya learned about the world in visual terms, quietly observing the nuances of life as it unfolded. Play of light and shadows, colors and textures, shapes and dimensions, sizes and perspective, all became her alphabet. The process of creativity became all that she knew and understood. This continued through her careers of being a graphic designer and educator, both in elementary and art education. Throughout all this, Priya has battled crippling chronic migraines, going as far back as her childhood. And, she has always experienced visions, brought on by her migraines, in her mind’s eye. About three years ago, while taking a break from her doctoral studies, Priya experienced a particularly vivid migraine, and decided to paint it. That changed everything and has led to Priya pursuing painting full-time.

When a migraine comes on, and the pain and pressure begin to build, Priya experiences a dance of colors, shapes and textures, inside her mind. She does not see this with her eyes, but rather her mind’s eye. These visual notes recede, radiate and pulse, almost in slow motion. Initially, these images were black on black or white on white, and not very exciting. But, over time, because of painting them, they have become much more brilliant. Frequently, Priya paints through a migraine, depending on the level of pain and functionality, trying to quickly tap into what she sees. When she can’t, however, she’s able to recall the imagery at a later time, and commit that to canvas.

Priya would like to stress that for her, the process of painting is a mindful one: it has helped her overcome anger, frustration and guilt, and to accept the presence of chronic migraines in her life. 

She says: "Each piece I create evolves from a meditative and introspective process, wherein I become one with my art: It is being aware in that moment, being mindful, acknowledging the pain and chaos, and losing myself to the visual symphony that unfolds. Some notes are peaceful while others discordant.  I've trained myself to paint through the pain and discomfort: my breathing slows down, my jaw unclenches, and my body slowly begins to relax. Often, completing a painting acts as a release, and reminds me that my mind can do more than just process pain: It can transform pain into beauty."



Priya believes that her knowledge of art, training in art/painting techniques and life experiences influence these visions. With her paintings highlighting a spontaneous and personal mark-making, you can say that they straddle Surrealism, Automatism and Abstract Expressionism. These works are self-portraits in a way, because as she says, “My art is part of me and I am part of my art”. Priya’s paintings are to be experienced in person, and at close quarters. Stop by Gallery 708 when her works will be highlighted in an upcoming show, “Emergence: Coming Into View”, an exhibit and sale of new works, opening Friday, September 7, 5-8pm. The exhibit runs through the end of October.

Written by Priya Rama for Gallery 708

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