FINDING A WAY: Kathryn DeMarco

Cameron Art Museum

Wilmington, NC

Thursday, November 14
World Diabetes Day 2019
6:30 – 8 PM
through November 24th

Don’t miss Kathryn’s artist intro on Thursday, Nov 14, 6:30 pm in Studio 1 exhibition “Finding A Way”.  With special guest, Diabetes Educator, Ginna Purrington of Durham, NC.


I make collage portraits. I started making self-portraits during my studies at Boston University School of the Arts, where the teaching was primarily figurative.  Often, I used myself as a model, simply because I was available. The collage technique evolved from restlessness in a drawing class. I decided to draw with paper.

Type 1 Diabetes is an integral part of my life since 1992, two months after graduation from Boston University.  It is a full-time responsibility to manage blood sugar and health.    Type 1 is controlled by insulin either injected or with an insulin pump.   Food, exercise, stress, sickness or sometimes nothing at all can cause surprise changes in my blood sugar.   After I made the collage “The Boss of Me”, I realized what a large part of my attention I devote to managing Type 1, controlling the highs and lows.   I saw potential to use the collage technique to express the confusion, the frustration, the fight and the acceptance of the challenges of chronic illness.

One of the main issues for an insulin dependent person is the question of how to calculate insulin doses.   The line is fine and never absolute.  Too much insulin presents itself in ways that are scary for people who care about my well-being.  A blood test is taken, and a correction can be made with glucose or a bolus of extra insulin when I am aware.  At night, well, I am asleep, and things happen differently.

I did not know exactly how volatile my hypoglycemia was.  Most mornings, I got up, fed the pets, walked the dog and went for a run.  Sometimes, I had bruises, often the bed was soaked in sweat which I would discover later.  My partner, a figurative sculptor, was so tired after a night when I had low blood sugar that he would work from home, but I didn’t understand why.  I asked him to document what was happening when I had an episode overnight.  So the next time it happened, after helping me to get stabilized with a juice box or glucose tablets, while I was in a semi-conscious state as my blood sugar was getting to normal, he took some photographs.  Our tabby cat, Carmine, was the only other witness.  These images helped me understand what we were experiencing, and became the basis for my drawings for this body work.

When I began this series, I poured through the many art magazines that I use for collage. I sought out photographs and art images that helped me express the gamut of feelings that any person might sense when they are put in a stressful situation. Thoughts and images constantly bombard us with imagery, good and bad, particularly in this digital age.  To remain engaged, but not overwhelmed, is a challenge. I use a lot of humorous material to lighten the composition, as well as images of physical strength.  

These portraits encapsulate challenging moments for me and for almost every other Type 1 Diabetic person at one time or another.  New technology, like the insulin pump, provides a more stable way to deliver insulin.  I am grateful that I have that technology and a network of good people to encourage me to persevere.

Every day is the same. I navigate food, exercise and stress to keep my blood sugar in line. And each day is different in some way – some successes, some disappointments, many compromises.   Healing and thriving, be it physical or mental, is never a linear process. The work to make all of the pieces fall together is a challenge worth the effort.

I find beauty in the shapes–and hopefulness in the chaotic dreams of theses collages.  I hope these portraits speak to viewers about resilience, and the ability to adapt and move forward even when it’s hard.  We all do this every day, by finding a way.


GINNA PURRINGTON is a Registered Nurse and Certified Diabetes Educator living in Durham, North Carolina. Diagnosed with Type I Diabetes at the age of 20, she joined a family legacy of Type I Diabetes that now spans at least 4 generations. She has worked to serve the community of people living with Diabetes in the hospital, in clinics for both children and adults, and as medical staff for two different Diabetes camps. She is a passionate advocate of the need to build community among people living with Diabetes.


Living with Type I Diabetes is a daily challenge and responsibility that burdens the lives of people with diabetes (PWDs) and their loved ones (sometimes called Type 3s) in ways that can be hard to predict, and hard to understand for those that don’t weigh the consequences of every bite and action against the need for more medication or the danger of hypoglycemia. Any PWD is working 2 full time jobs, one of which requires frequent monitoring, decisions, and actions to replace an essential body process that usually requires no outside intervention: delivering the perfect amount of insulin.