Diabetes Art: The Real Thing

Last week I received an email from a certain David Mark Bradley, a Type 1 in Manhattan, who also happens to be an artist — the real thing — whose show called “Blood, Icons, Clouds: Living with Diabetes” is now running at the van der Plas Gallery in New York. Coincidentally, the ADA was a partial sponsor, and some of the proceeds of the opening event went to its NYC “Step Out To Fight Diabetes” Walk late last month.


“After pricking my finger to test my blood sugar level, I have to wipe
the blood somewhere. One day, I
smeared it on an ink drawing. I was shocked how pretty, and on fire the
red was. What cadmium red aspires to be,” David says. “I worked in
advertising, but always wanted to paint… I was going

I absolutely love that this one-time ad exec, who worked on campaigns for the likes of IBM, Guess, Lexis, Nissan, and Charles Schwab, has followed his heart and turned his creative juices loose on his “powerful nemesis” — diabetes.


David grew up in Minnesota and moved to the West Coast in his early ’20s to pursue his career. He was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes at age 27, and is now 44. Now living in New York, he focuses on his art and does consulting work on the side to pay the bills.

Would you believe he just became a pumper (using Medtronic) two weeks ago? As we chatted on the phone yesterday, he was busy pushing buttons on his new syringe-free life support system.

David: “I just hate
needles. Ever since I was a kid, I just hate ‘em.”

Me: “Well, who doesn’t?”

David: “Right! One of the big issues is keeping them
out of landfills. I don’t know how, but that’s
something I’ve been thinking about a lot. I have bags of them.”

Me: “So the syringes in your artwork are used?”

David: “Of course. I’m not going to waste new ones.”

[Editor's note: Hah! You didn't expect us to make Test Strip Art out of new product either, did you? ;) ]

David’s work actually spans drawings,
paintings, sculpture and poetry, exploring “abstract and figural perspectives” on diabetes, Catholic mysticism, the Kabbalah,
and dreams.

He says he has a “constant dialogue with diabetes.” This poem, written in 1998, really spoke to me:

Joined At The Hip

You’re the silent partner
More mute than my shadow

At least shadows are good
Conversationalists all I
Ever hear trippingly off

Your teeth is the hissing
Bad breadth of death and dismemberment

I call you out
Each day I deny you

You claim as yours and yours alone
Obviously the poem of Reincarnation is epic
Silly boy

Is that all you have
To say

For the moment yes
You’re about to be

David’s NYC art show runs through November 28th. What next? My suggestion was that David enter the Inspired by Diabetes contest. He sure looks like a shoo-in to me.


4 Responses

  1. Rosalind Joffe
    Rosalind Joffe November 21, 2007 at 4:16 pm | | Reply

    I’m going to NYC and will be sure to check out his show. Love the use of the syringes. I gotta’s think on what use I can put my Avonex needle (MS med) to… Rosalind

  2. Michael Mahanger
    Michael Mahanger November 27, 2007 at 8:43 am | | Reply

    I liked the poem. I have been “dealing” with Type 1 diabetes since age 14. I am now 45. I have realized, through the years, how the science of managing diabetes transforms into an art form as one reaches new levels of mastery. It seems that opposites turn into one another as the reach extremes…..Bitter into sweet…..Good into Bad…Ying into Yang….Light into darkness…..Science into Art…Living with diabetes successfully is an Art. Thank you David for your insight and words.

  3. Cesar
    Cesar December 5, 2007 at 11:45 am | | Reply

    This is a really neat thing to do with all of the supplies we need to use. I have loads of milk cartons filled with syringes that can come in handy. thanks Amy. Cesar

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