About Cathy Aten


Conversations regarding disease have always been colored by an ‘either-or’ mentality. Either we are healthy or we are sick. With the advent of numerous autoimmune illnesses having questionable causes and few count-on-able antidotes, we now have a significant part of our population living in the grey area; having a full life while managing the challenges of a high-maintainence body.

These postings are my way of beginning to de-pathologize disease.  I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2000. I have been a working artist for 25 years and now spend most days in a wheelchair. I graduated with a BFA from The Center For Creative Studies, College of Art and Design in Detroit, Michigan. I began working first as a textile designer creating hand-painted fabric for interior designers and also for the fashion industry in Boston. In 1987 I moved to Santa Fe, New Mexico and found home. I segued into oil painting on highly textured surfaces always inspired by the local landscape and exhibited my work successfully for many years.  The diagnosis of MS was shocking as my body has always done what I wanted it to do: champion gymnast as a young girl, lots of Iyengar Yoga as an adult.

I decided to get healthy. To me that meant giving up anything that felt toxic: art materials, relationships, food and beliefs. I began a new era as an artist (now words are my art form) and as a woman. Relationships have changed and I let them. My diet is cleaner. Each day includes one or more ‘little deaths’ as my carefully constructed identities fall away to reveal someone new to me but someone I happen to like very much. (Except on the days when I don’t)

The images I use to complement the writing are drawn from my own work over the past 25 years. As my body becomes more constricted my heart seems to widen and want to reach out more than I have done in the past. This presence of both an opening of my soul and limited physical movement makes me wonder what the definition of ‘health’ really is? These writings are more of an invitation than anything else; to myself to come forward with a softness, strength and vulnerability, and to you as the reader to witness, perhaps be touched in some way and come along with me as we all decide what is REALLY essential to thrive in our changing world.

photo credit: Sharon Rose Dozar


Short portrait of an artist facing the changes that come with the diagnosis of Primary Progressive MS: