Skip to Content


Ann Leda Shapiro

Diagnosing Disasters

As an artist and acupuncturist, Ann Leda Shapiro uses a dual lens in her investigations of our interior and exterior worlds.

Ann Leda Shapiro. Smoke II, 2018. Watercolor on paper. 44 x 30 inches. Photo: Art & Soul.
  • September 5 - 26, 2019
  • Opening: Thursday, September 5

Ann Leda Shapiro has been making art for more than fifty years and practicing Chinese medicine for nearly thirty. She uses the traditional eastern diagnostic system known as “Patterns of Disharmony” to identify imbalances in the body. “Climatic Factors” are the classifying vocabulary of this methodology, inspired by observation of the natural world: wind, damp, heat, cold, and water. Wind invasion, for example, can point to a potential cold and water without fire might indicate headache.

These principles form the conceptual framework for the hand-cut and painted constructions in Diagnosing Disasters. Anatomical imagery is combined with representations of subconscious psychic conditions and environmental destruction – fire, smoke, floods, tsunamis, droughts, tornados, storms, oil spills, atomic nuclear blasts, windstorms, and earthquakes. The merger of external environmental crises with internal physical and psychological states is an uncomfortable accord, but one that is central to our present-day climate change reality and resultant anxiety.

Shapiro sees the natural landscape and the landscape of the body and mind as part of a complex, connected living system. Emotional tensions translate into physical tensions and influence human actions. The earth suffers and we suffer. Through dissection and analysis, can we better understand the causes of our current condition? By healing ourselves, can we heal the planet or vice-versa?

About the Artist

Ann Leda Shapiro grew up in New York City and in the 1960s migrated west to study at the San Francisco Art Institute and UC Davis. During the 1970s, she taught criticism, the creative process, and the interrelationship of the arts at San Francisco State University and for the University of Colorado at Boulder’s Semester at Sea program. In the 1980s, Shapiro found her way to the University of Arizona Tucson and later Austin, TX, where she taught painting and life drawing. After a friend’s diagnosis, she began volunteering at an acupuncture clinic for people living with AIDS. As she became increasingly familiar with Chinese medicine, she discovered that it resonated deeply with the ideas she explored in her paintings. Compelled and curious, she enrolled in acupuncture school, illustrated the history of Chinese medicine, and became a board-certified acupuncturist in 1991.

Shapiro now lives on Vashon Island, where she paints, publishes books on healing and the environment, and maintains an acupuncture practice. She was just awarded a prestigious Pollock-Krasner Foundation Grant.