KUSA - Mariam Pare was born to be an artist.
From childhood, she always loved to paint which continued through school and into college where she was an aspiring and talented art student.
Then, tragedy struck in 1996. Pare was caught in a crossfire of gang violence while driving a friend's car and was shot in the back by an unknown assailant. That attack rendered this talented artist a quadriplegic - permanently unable to walk with significant loss of use of her upper extremities.
After a long period of rehabilitation, Pare was taught to hold a pencil in her mouth to write her name. That single lesson became the key to discovering a new approach to painting and a way to become more self-sufficient.
Through a combination of sheer will and family support, Pare carved out a meaningful life after her injury. She broadened the idea of what she thought was possible for herself and continued to develop as an artist and "mouth painter". In 2005 she finished a BFA as well as an Associate Degree in Graphic Design and another in Web Design. In 2006, Pare learned about the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, and discovered an organization that, it would seem, was made just for her. She immediately gathered together her best work and submitted her portfolio, applied and was accepted. Through the AMFPA's support and exposure, Pare's artistic vision continues to flourish. Painting with her mouth has become second nature for Pare, who now possesses painting skills tantamount to, if not exceeding that of any able-bodied counterpart.
Sixteen years after her accident, Pare is living her dream as a professional artist and designer. She exhibits her work in galleries both nationally and locally as well as in numerous private collections. She works prolifically from her home studio in suburban Chicago producing exquisite artwork in traditional oil and modern mixed media techniques. Pare captures her passion for painting through bold, colorful expression, creating traditional still lives, semi-abstract motifs, colorful landscapes, and contemporary figurative designs. To look at a painting by Pare one might see a beautiful piece of artwork, to then discover how it was produced, and the resilience it took to make it possible, makes it that much more remarkable.
The Mouth and Foot Painting Artists is a worldwide for-profit organization that is owned and controlled by disabled artists. It is not a charity and its members earn their living by having their paintings reproduced as holiday greeting cards and calendars. The MFPA has been trading in the USA for over 50 years and has more than 800 artists (69 US artists) in nearly 80 countries.
Pare volunteers for the RIC Associate Board and donates 50 percent of the sales of her art to the art therapy department of the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Her hope is to keep learning and growing as an artist and to continue sharing her work and spirit with others.
(KUSA-TV © 2013 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)