Interview by Artitouille

Jasmine Raskas: Unus Mundus Art

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Twenty-four-year-old Jamsine Raskas knows no limitations. A medical student turned painter, the newly-budded artist juggles both an aristic and athletic career, all while living with a rare medical disorder called Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Raskas creates her art under the name Undus Mundus, meaning “one world” in Latin. The young painter is inspired by psychologist Carl Jung’s theory of the collective unconcious; everything is connected, and this is what Raskas wishes to display in her work.

Raskas was once in an accelerated medical school program at the University of Missouri- Kansas City. “I planned on getting my PhD and getting on a research route. I’m still really interested in scientific research,” says Raskas.

The painter’s thorough scientific background is clearly displayed in her art. Her painting, “A CELL IS NOT A MACHINE,” is inspired by the inter-workings of the human cell. Raskas’ work walks a fine line between science and visual art. “I think everything is one and the same. That is why I do art, because you’re allowed to cross all barriers of fields,” says Raskas.

“A CELL IS NOT A MACHINE,” Acrylic on canvas.

Besides for one high school art class and a figure drawing course in college, Raskas holds no art education other than what she’s learned from experience. For the young painter, the creation art is itself a process of gaining knowledge. “I view art as a tool to understand the world around us,” writes Raskas on her blog, “The sciences and humanities each look at the world through their own lens, but don’t offer a way to synthesize a broader view of existence.”

In conjunction with anatomically inspired paintings, Raskas is also influenced by modern physics. In her desire to merge the gap between man and nature, the artist uses vivid colors to create surreal images of nerves, light, mitochondria, and gene transcription. “I try to paint things that look like they could be seen under a microscope or telescope, so they’re this real-world potential but you can’t tell if they’re macroscopic or microscopic,” says Raskas.

Jasmine in her studio.

Raskas started to paint seriously around the age of twenty, the same time she was diagnosed with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome.

Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome is a rare chronic disorder that effects one’s connective tissues, causing joints to frequently dislocate and stretch like Laffy Taffy. Because of her condition, Raskas has numerous allergies, trouble walking, issues with proprioception (the ability of the brain to know where limbs stand in space) and vision.

At times, even painting can prove difficult for Raskas. “I have so much trouble holding a paintbrush, but then I can do these random things [brush strokes] that are so easy to me, but it does hurt to paint,” says Raskas. As a consequence of her limited mobility, Raskas cannot paint from one side of a canvas to another in a single stroke. Her small brush-strokes are part of her signature style. The randomness of her paintings accentuates instead of reveals any awkward movements.

Nevertheless, Raskas turns to her art as a means to express her ideas. “Painting for me is  a form of meditation,” says Raskas, “When I’m painting I’m not thinking at all; I’m just going with the flow.”

In addition to painting colorful and abstract images, Raskas enjoys painting robots. Due to Ehlers-Danlos, she begins to feel like the subjects in which she paints. “Robots represent how I feel about my body. I feel either really stiff like I have to move like a robot or really floppy,” says Raskas.

“Paint-Bot 2″ 16″x 20” Acrylic on canvas.
“HERE NOR THERE” 12″x 12″ Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of Unus Mundus Art.

Life with Ehlers-Danlos Syndrom is extremely physically exhausting, a testament Raksas can attest to. Raskas writes in her blog:

“I can only hold myself together for so many hours each day. My feet drag against the ground as I try to walk. I drop things unexpectedly. Sometimes a cup, sometimes a shoulder…I keep fighting until I reach a point where I simply cannot move at all without dislocating a joint (or two).”

With her scientific background, Raskas knows of her disorder. With her artistic background, Rakas understands her disorder. In her painting, “Warped Worlds,” the twenty-four-year-old paints about her experiencing excessive double vision.

“Warped Worlds” 4’x5′ Acrylic on Canvas. Photo Courtesy of Unus Mundus Art

Her painting “Packed” is inspired by a long-standing headache Raskas endured while awaiting brain surgery. “It was an experience that definitely gave me insight into my art. I had to wait two months to have the surgery and was literally on my back for two months waiting. Every time I stood up my headache would get too bad,” says Raskas.

“Packed” Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of Unus Mundus Art.

To function with Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, one must attain extreme muscular strength and endurance. At the suggestion of her physical therapist, Raskas turned to Paraclimbing as a means to gain strength. Other than swimming, Raskas must avoid any sports that involve impact or people.

As an adaptive climber, Raskas has competed in several national competitions, including an IFSC Paraclimbing World Championship in which she competed for Team USA in Paris.

Even though there is no known cure for Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome, Raskas believes if she had the choice she would not alter herself to alleviate her symptoms. “As much as I hope for a cure to my health conditions, I strongly question the idea that I am something intended to be fixed,” writes Raskas on her blog. Ever the scientist, Raskas would never desire to alter her genome.

Twenty-four-year-old Jasmine Raskas knows no limitations. A painter, scientist and paraclimber, she embraces what nature has given her. In her art, she wants the viewer to smile and think. Raskas writes:

“Remember how tiny we are compared to the stars, and yet how big can be a single heart. Feel that we are all in this together and believe that every moment is as beautiful as you can make it.”

“Aperature” 4’x4′ Acrylic on canvas. Photo courtesy of Unus Mundus Art.



Ladue News Art Feature

Unus Mundus Art is featured in the Art & Soul section of Ladue News! The article written by Bryan A. Hollerbach, summarizes my goals as a artist and gives you an idea of what motivates me to create. Here’s one of my favorite snippets:

“Raskas sketches a background that bridges British physical chemist and novelist C.P. Snow’s famous “two cultures,” the sciences and the humanities.

Those fields, she says, “each look at the world through their own lens but don’t offer a way to synthesize a broader view of this existence. I believe art can be thought of as the master of all science. I use art to study and explore relationships between multiple fields of study.”

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2016 Paraclimbing World Championship

September 2016, I traveled to Paris, France to compete in the 2016 Paraclimbing World Championship. I spent the last week of August in the hospital and almost had to miss the trip, but I made it! With my Ehlers-Danlos, traveling to a foreign country was much harder than the climbing… I have many braces, medications, ergonomic devices and conditions which act up at unpredictable times. In the end, everything was worth the extra effort. I met an amazing community of adaptive climbers from around the world and climbed at my absolute best! I received 7th place in my category. I didn’t make too far up either route, but I know I tried my best. The competition was well above my ability level, but I’m just getting starting as a climber and the fact that I made it into the world comp at all was quite an accomplishment!

Since I didn’t make it into the finals, I had extra time to explore the city of Paris.

As an artist, I couldn’t have any more lucky with the competition location! I got see some of the world’s finest modern art museums and gained an incredible amount of insight and inspiration on this trip. You can check out the photo album Inspiration From Paris to see my favorite images.

I brought mini canvas on the trip and even got a bit of painting done myself… of course the theme had to be climbing! You can see the rest of this series via Unus Mundus Art Experiments-Can You Spot The Climber?.