Memphis Artist Jean Holmgren Chronicles Heart Surgery Through Illustration

Holmgren’s solo exhibition, based on her book Breathless: Heart Failure Illustrated, powerfully chronicles the artist’s journey with heart complications, heart surgery, and recovery.

The artist shares her inspiration for the work: “My goal in making this art and narrative was part therapy, part cautionary tale, and part light tutorial. This book is for all the clueless, insurance-challenged and deluded folk like me, who are living their lives thinking that they will continue living until they don’t…with no consequences.”

While we all react to life’s challenges in various ways, Holmgren fell back on what was familiar – her pen to paper. The large-scale images on display reflect an emotional intensity that captures the difficult experience of undergoing heart issues.

Holmgren recalls, “I made countless images and many, many scribbled questions to the universe. I made a comment once that you do not recognize a pivotal moment until you cease to spin. When I finally stopped spinning as my body was knitting itself together, I had almost two hundred images and a ton of scribbled thoughts. Because my default is design and illustration, they pretty much spun themselves into a book.”

Don’t miss the opportunity to engage with Holmgren’s work, which invites all viewers and readers to experience a dynamic response to health. To purchase your copy of Breathless: Heart Failure Illustrated, please contact Olivia Wall at

On view: October 12 – November 4

Reception: Friday, November 2, 6 – 8pm

About Jean Holmgren
After teaching at Memphis College of Art for about 20 years as an Adjunct Instructor for Illustration, Jean Holmgren joined the college faculty full-time as Assistant Professor during the Fall 2016 semester. She completed her MFA in Drawing and Painting at MCA in 1989. Over the years, Jean has taught numerous classes in Illustration, Typography, Digital Foundations and Graphic Design. In addition to teaching, Jean has also worked and freelanced for many companies in Memphis and nationally in various roles, as Associate Creative Director at Patterson Graham Design Group, Assistant Art Director at Walker and Associates, and freelancing Illustration locally and nationally. Jean has exhibited her artwork widely in the Memphis area, and regularly donates artwork in support of community organizations, including the Memphis Child Advocacy Center’s annual Works of Heart auction.

Gallery Hours
MCA Alumni Gallery hours are as follows: Weekdays from 8:30 a.m.–5 p.m, Saturdays from 9 a.m.–4 p.m, and Sundays from noon-4 p.m.

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