Gorebridge woman with muscle wasting condition brushes up on awareness by holding art exhibition

One of Damian Callan's portraits of Alexandra Gardyne from Gorebridge.
One of Damian Callan's portraits of Alexandra Gardyne from Gorebridge.

A Gorebridge woman with a muscle wasting condition has been painted by one of Scotland’s best know artists for her fundraising art exhibition.

Alexandra Gardyne (32), who suffers from facioscapulohumeral muscular dystrophy (FSHD), is the subject of work by Damian Callan. His work will be shown as part of a one-off exhibition on November 9 at the national Scottish Portrait Gallery, to fundraise for Muscular Dystrophy UK, organised by Alexandra.

Alexandra Gardyne from Gorebridge.

Alexandra Gardyne from Gorebridge.

FSHD is a genetic muscle-wasting condition that causes muscles to weaken and waste over time leading to increasing disability. It particularly affects the muscles of the limbs, shoulders and face.

Alexandra has a passion for art and is putting a creative spin on her journey with FSHD and the challenges she faces – which sees her reaching out to work with Damian Callan and other Scottish artists for this charity exhibition.

She said: “I was diagnosed aged 22 even though I had symptoms from toddler-hood. My walking is now significantly declining as is my overall physical strength.

“This causes many issues like my eyelids not closing at night; sucking through a straw is difficult, and lifting my arms above my shoulders and head is impossible to do by myself.

One of Damian Callan's portraits of Alexandra Gardyne from Gorebridge.

One of Damian Callan's portraits of Alexandra Gardyne from Gorebridge.

“I will remain headstrong regardless of this and I find art a beautiful way to do this.”

Damian said he found an extraordinary dignity and determination in the way Alexandra deals with the challenges of her condition.

He said: “My subject is the moving figure and for many years I have worked on depicting the characteristic movements of sports figures and dancers, as well as those of my wife and children.

“Alexandra asked if I would consider working with her as a subject and model with a view to capturing the particular ways in which she moves and thus possibly offering an insight into the experience of living with FSHD.

“Through a process of drawing her in the studio and photographing her walking in the Botanic Gardens, I began with a series of charcoal and pastel studies and developed these into paintings; trying to abstract her movements into their essential elements.

“I have attempted to produce positive and uplifting images that recognise an extraordinary dignity and determination in the way she deals with the challenges of this condition.”

The exhibition also features work by Ritchie Collins and other artists.

Ritchie said: “When I met Alexandra and she told me about the Muscular Dystrophy UK charity, I thought it was a great idea to host an evening of art in the magical setting of the National Portrait Gallery. It’s an honour to be able to draw awareness and raise funds for such a great charity through my work.”

A curator of the National Portrait Gallery will take guests on a tour of the Modern Portrait exhibition room followed by a one-off auction of up to 11 original pieces and specially selected signed print work.

Tickets for the event are available here.