Thousands of hours of medical treatment inspired artist Philip Carey

Philip Carey works on  Art in My Veins

Philip Carey works on Art in My Veins

CHICAGO -- The work of Philip Carey can be described as colorful, wacky, strange and full of fun. Carey used some of these words himself when he visited Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art for the opening of his exhibition currently on view, Philip Carey: Art in My Veins

Born in 1942 in Long Beach, Calif., Carey creates art inspired by his dreams and the medical treatments he received between 2004 and 2015. During this period, Carey was diagnosed with heart disease, kidney disease and prostate cancer, and he began collecting the medical ephemera associated with his treatment. 

While on dialysis, Carey completed more than 400 drawings on No. 10 envelopes. The experience of dialysis treatment and the time it required--3½ hours a day three times a week for six years--provided the artistic impetus for this "postal art," which explores "the adventures of mini-Philip," phobias, "places I would rather be than dialysis," landscapes, travel and graphics.

Carey's "Bandage Faces," actual ornamented and framed bandages gathered from his dialysis treatments, are expressive self-portraits that reflect his moods and feelings while on the dialysis machine. His dream drawings consist of sketches and stories drawn with ink and Prismacolor pencils on 3 x 5-inch Post-It notes. Carey admits, "Dream analysis doesn't matter to me at all. I really enjoy the fact that things are hiding somewhere in there, and they just happen to come out."

His life-sized medical self-portrait, Art In My Veins, was recently exhibited at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore.

The work in this exhibition, on view through May 13, invites viewers to think about the multiple forms confinement and isolation may take--in Carey's case, the experience of 3,000 hours of dialysis and more than 25 operations and medical procedures--and their potential to engender artistic output. Throughout its run, Intuit will host programming in support of the exhibition, including a free artist talk on May 10 and an artist-led public art-making workshop on May 12. Through these programs, Carey will discuss themes in his art, including creating in the face of trauma.


Established in 1991, Intuit: The Center for Intuitive and Outsider Art is one of the premier museums of outsider and self-taught art in the world, offering exhibitions; resources for scholars and students; a permanent collection of more than 1,200 works of art; the Henry Darger Room Collection; the Robert A. Roth Study Center, a non-circulating collection with a primary focus in the fields of outsider and contemporary self-taught art; and educational programming for people of all interest levels and backgrounds.

Intuit is open to the public Tuesday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Thursday, 11 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m.; and Monday school holidays. More information at

For more information and downloadable images and logos, please contact Annaleigh Wetzel, Marketing Coordinator, at