Art Ability: Overcoming Disability Through Art

Art Ability

As someone married to a rehab nurse, dinners often consist of sad stories of people in dire circumstances— from someone who was debilitated by a mild stroke, to someone who needs multiple surgeries because of a traumatic brain injury, or a concussion. If you’re contemplating losing weight, it’s a great way to lose your appetite.

You see, my wife works for a hospital that caters to the rehabilitation of patients who are trying to reclaim their lives. It’s a stressful job not suitable for the faint-hearted. Sure, she has a nice pension, a 403(b) retirement plan with a match, and a dependable salary. But like many careers in the non-profit sector, the monetary rewards are a bit limiting.

For her and others who cared for these patients, the true reward comes from seeing these people recover fully. More so, seeing them do great things after recovery. And one of them is the ability to create inspiring artwork.

Every year, her employer hosts an exhibit that aims to celebrate the works of artists with disabilities, and people from affluent Philadelphia Main Line neighborhoods flock to see them.

Art Ability Gallery

I happen to be there to pick up my wife from work. So today is your lucky day. I’ve taken photos of the best ones for your enjoyment only— I don’t sell the artworks.

Without further ado.

Abstract Paintings

Cheryl Kinderknecht is a mixed media artist and former gallery owner from Bradenton, FL. Over the past 15 years, her artwork has been increasingly impacted by her failing eyesight. Her condition breaks and skews how objects and colors appear and which and remain within her realm of usable vision.

Pricilla Bohlen is a professional visual artist from Narberth, PA. She works on canvas using acrylic paint, resin, and acrylic mediums. She received her BFA in 1974 and subsequently lived in New York City for 10 years. Bohlen moved back to the Philly area where she shows her work extensively. She is an active member of multiple art groups.

Related: Masterworks | Fine Arts Make Fine Investments

Animals and Wildlife

Rebecca Scheuer is a wife, mother, and high school counselor from Narvon, PA. After a serious car accident in 2015, she started taking oil painting lessons as part of her vision therapy. She realized that painting brought her joy. Learning about color, value, and composition has helped her to see the world in a different way.

Ginger Gehres is from Chocowinity, NC. Art is her passion. It was once her vocation in life and when her health changed dramatically, it became her therapy. Today, it is Gehres’ joy to create visual stories and share them with others. Gehres struggles with grand mal seizures, chronic migraines, and interstitial cystitis but she takes advantage of the days she feels well enough to work on her art.

William Spiker is from Wilmington, DE. Spiker has been a bilateral below-the-knee amputee since 2011. While recovering from surgery and before mastering prosthetics, he was consumed with a desire to return to making art, specifically welded steel structure. Spiker soon discovered that doing that while confined to a wheelchair proved to be quite challenging. But for Spiker, making art was an important part of recovering an enjoyable life in the face of considerable loss.

Earth and Nature

Gen Farrell is from Burleson, TX. She is currently retired from a 25-year teaching career in high school art. Her images are of the life that she lives and with the people and the horses that she knows. Farrell has a benign essential tremor, which she has lived with since she was 20 years old.

Alexander Masyk is from Brooklyn, NY. He has been exhibiting his artwork since 1970 and has pieces hanging in numerous museums and private collections around the world. In the late 2000s, Masyk had laser treatment due to his history of bilateral glaucoma, which caused complete loss of vision in his left eye. He has a cataract in his right eye causing difficulty reading and focusing for long periods of time.

Herbert Eilertsen is from Coatesville, PA. After being diagnosed with ankylosing spondylitis, Eilertsen was no longer able to run his framing and art supply business. After many months of regaining strength and finding his new rhythm of function, he was able to focus on his inner passion— painting.

Portraits of People

Shawn Bitterbender is from Philadelphia, PA. He suffers from advanced asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which makes breathing difficult. As a result of his breathing difficulty, his hand has a tendency to tremble and shake. However, Bittenbender says painting helps him control his hand as well as his breathing.

Thu Nguyen is from Kamuela, HI. But she was born in Saigon, Vietnam. Being very shy, she spent much of her childhood hiding away upstairs painting, instead of playing with other children. In 1975 when Saigon fell, and in the resulting confusion, she became separated from her parents. She ended up in a refugee camp near Hong Kong for a year prior to immigrating to the United States as an orphan.

Related: Fine Arts Make Fine Investments

This is fantastic, thank you for sharing this project and the works of these wonderful artists! I’ve also encouraged client’s that I’ve worked with to enter artwork in the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Art Expositions (I’m a social worker). It’s so gratifying to see the pride of the artists and to know their work is enjoyed by others. These types of art shows are so important for creating a dialog about disability vs. ability, and mental illness vs. mental health.

Hi, Ginger. Thank you for commenting. I’m thrilled that one of the talented artists that I featured discovered my post!

These are very good! I especially like “Cat’s Cradle”. It captures the bond between the lioness and her cub. Looking forward to the day when I can purchase beautiful artworks.


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