Chiropractic + Naturopathic Doctor

Advocacy Through Art: Stephen Shortt illustrates the profession

By Maria DiDanieli   


Part of the healing process is aesthetics – art has healing power.”

Ivy Column
Photo credit to Jade Morin at photosynthese

Part of the healing process is aesthetics – art has healing power.”

An eclectic blend of linguistic accents –  the result of residing in various
countries – form the cadence with which Stephen Shortt explains his reasoning for creating paintings that represent various healing arts. 


He is not a chiropractor. But every stroke of his brush honours the healers who have touched his life and pays homage to the magnificent splendour that he perceives in the anatomical structures of man and the shapes within nature. Shortt’s work has been featured at exhibitions around the world. Each show that he presents is a public pronouncement for the power of chiropractic; each painting is an effigy of the power of the body’s natural ability to achieve healing.  

Stephen Shortt was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland.  He studied art in London, England, at the Chelsea School of Art, but, as he tells Canadian Chiropractor, with his usual unassuming composure, creating art has always been an important part of his life. 

Shortt immigrated to Canada in 1974. Currently based in a loft in Montreal’s
St. Laurent district, Shortt is surrounded by the fruits of many years of labour as an artist. And, if it can be said that “by their fruits you shall know them,” then one can see how Shortt’s love of nature, healing and chiropractic is deeply engrained and multifaceted.  His white walls are strewn with paintings that depict healers in the disciplines of medicine, dentistry, cosmetic surgery and, of course, chiropractic. Many of the paintings also focus on anatomy, with his chiropractic pieces featuring, by and large, images of the human spinal column. With the use of texture and dimension, Shortt produces images which, at the same time, evoke an awarness of a universal power while sharply focusing on the reality of individual potential for health – or suffering. One is made to feel that this is actually a choice – to be alone or part of a whole, to be well or succumb to the evil of disease. Each piece has the quality of a dream while heightening the participant’s awareness of being human.   

Red Spine
Photo credit to Jade Morin at photosynthese

“It was not a conscious decision that I made,” says Shortt, regarding his work with chiropractic images, “it just sort of evolved.”

Shortt is, himself, a dedicated chiropractic patient.  He is an advocate for natural therapies because of their holistic nature and simply finds himself attracted to the images that are prevalent within the chiropractic profession. 

“I am interested in the history of chiropractic; I have read about D.D. Palmer and how he was led to chiropractic work and about B.J’s role in promoting the profession,” muses Shortt. “I simply find that the shapes of bones in the
spinal column are visually beautiful and, so, the chiropractic paintings that I have produced are an artist’s rendering of the spine, and not necessarily an
anatomical depiction.” 

Stephen Shortt creates his paintings with graphite and acrylic paints. The graphite is ground into a powder to create a “flotage” and the bones are embossed onto the paintings – this gives them the almost three-dimensional quality that makes the pieces unique and intriguing to view.  Shortt zeroes in on, and accentuates, those features of the spine that he is most attracted to. In his depiction of D.D. and B.J. Palmer with a spine, Shortt is realizing his interest in the history and development of the profession as well as the anatomical area that is the primary focus of its work. 

“It’s not medical, for me,” reiterates Shortt, “it’s the beauty of the bones.” 

Stephen Shortt’s interests extend to the areas of dentistry and plastic surgery as well as the history of medicine. His interest in these fields evolved from his attraction to chiropractic and he considers his work with spine images to be his primary focus.  His works have been featured at several exhibitions, including Le mois de la photo, in Montreal, Gallery 101 in Ottawa, Arte Fiera, in Bologna,
Italy, Whitechapel Art Gallery in London, England, and the Alternative Museum in New York City. This year is the first that Shortt will be featuring his work at the Parker Seminars for chiropractors, both in Las Vegas (February 7-9) and Mon-
treal (May 14-17). He is very excited about the prospect of participating in these two meetings.  Shortt’s work will also be featured at the meeting of the Florida Chiropractic Association in 2008. 

Shortt tells me he loves plants with big leaves and that his three rescued cats skulk about his place without compromising the quiet that his building affords him to practise his craft. He is fond of chiropractors and respects the chiropractic profession but is, primarily, attracted to the beauty of the natural shape of
human bones. 

He describes the view from his loft as panoramic and dominated by sky.
I cannot help but feel that his advocacy of chiropractic, through his depiction of its history and practices, will lift his audiences to the heights that he has experienced within his own quest for health. What better tribute to the development and purpose of chiropractic than this personal expression of how it has touched his life, and what a splendid  public invitation he provides, to the world, to come and learn of its tremendous healing potential.

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