Puzzles of the Brain: An Artist’s Journey through Amnesia
PUZZLES OF THE BRAIN:
AN ARTIST’S JOURNEY THROUGH AMNESIA
October 13 – December 30, 2018
In late December of 2007, Lonni Sue Johnson, an artist and illustrator, suddenly contracted viral encephalitis, an infection that led to severe brain damage. As a consequence, Lonni Sue developed profound amnesia—a deficit in memory. Lonni Sue’s amnesia encompasses knowledge of events that just happened, as well as past experiences, yet she has not lost her sense of identity.
Lonni Sue was a professional illustrator for 31 years. Her art was published by The New York Times and appeared on covers of The New Yorker magazine. She also created illustrations for The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, the medical field, major corporations, the United States government, and has illustrated many books.
Lonni Sue’s art before and after her illness provides a rare opportunity to observe the impact of brain damage on the creative process. A comparison of her art shows a stark contrast in styles but deep similarities as well, especially in her use of humorous devices to convey complex ideas. What is extraordinary about Lonni Sue’s case is that, in the context of her deep amnesia, she continues to write and draw urgently, using art to capture her current thoughts before they vanish. Her art is the external record of changes in her mental life.