I once knew of a lady who had her whole life before her. She had just graduated high school and she had been selected by a top college in the country. She was enjoying a nice summer day out on the lake. They had a platform where she was sunbathing in the middle of the water. She decided to jump in and take a swim. That was the last time she walked. She was paralyzed when she hit the bottom.
I remember reading a book about her. It was very inspiring. Completely paralyzed in a wheelchair, she never lost sight of life. Joni Eareckson Tada picked up a brush with her mouth and started painting. But while most people would paint images expressing a sense of loss in such a situation, Joni painted the most beautiful scenes of ocean views and horses in meadows. I guess her thoughts were focused on the fact that life had given her another chance and with that chance she chose to paint.
Today, she runs a ministry for others who are handicapped. No one has to pioneer themselves through the loss they have just experienced. Joni is there to help them. She shows them with her actions and through her words. But the one thing about her words, they aren’t false and they don’t lack understanding, which is a stumbling block for many people who suddenly find themselves in such a situation. Joni knows because she has been through it. People know that she can relate. Art was there to spark life back into her and now she in turn gives back. That’s a lesson we could all stand to learn.
When I first heard the story about Joni, I thought how original, such a miraculous story. When I started writing this article, I did a search on the net to remind myself of certain details. Joni is buried somewhere in the bottom of the pile because there are example after example of how artists have fought back from their own adversity. Artists who are paralyzed or challenged in some other way are practicing art and getting through life just fine.
To name a few, there’s Dennis Francesconi, an artist from Fresno, California who broke his neck and immediately became a quadriplegic as a result of a boat skiing accident. Then there’s Erin Brady Worsham, an artist who paintswith her eyebrows. She battles with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis and she can neither move nor breathe on her own. But, wires taped to her eyebrows that connect to a keyboard on her wheelchair allow her to manipulate images on her computer screen. Her paintings take her about 250 hours worth of work, but they are beautiful. When art drives you, nothing can hold you back. Those are just a few of the miraculous artists pursuing their passions regardless of the adversities they face.
A few weeks ago, I highlighted the lives of Peggy Chun and Carlos Vargas in an article entitled “The Drive in Art.” They also found life through art after meeting with adversity. I don’t think it’s so much as people finding art through life. I think it’s a greater phenomenon than that. I think people are finding life through art.