An Improbable Artist

One could argue that my daughter’s painting is, well, a miracle. And if “miracle” seems an exaggeration then I guess one could suggest “highly improbable.” But no one could debate that it isn’t “amazing!”

AshleyVoss1Art is a wonderful form of expression, from emotions to experiences. But for my daughter, art is special because being able to communicate in any way is a blessing. Due to brain damage following her first open heart surgery when she was just 2 ½ years old, she all but lost the ability to verbally communicate. In fact, she nearly lost her life.

She’s cortically visually impaired. No depth perception and cuts in her visual field from the brain damage. We honestly don’t know exactly what she can and can’t see because she just can’t tell us.


And then there’s the weakness on one side of her body. It’s better than when she was recovering from the brain damage – at the time she had a resting hand splint to avoid contractures in her right arm – but, yeah, it’s still there. Just watch her crack a smile. First one side of her mouth, then the other.

So, you see, picking up a brush, applying paint to it, and putting it to the canvas to create art is for my daughter…remarkable.

We’ve found ways to make it easier for her: a slanted tabletop easel, a recycled egg carton to hold her acrylic paints, and a communication device. But it’s her “vision” that turns it all into art.

And there are times when it defies explanation. Like the time she painted what looked like a black stump…until it was turned horizontally and we realized it was our recently adopted black rescue dog. Or the time she painted two separate canvases. One might have initially thought “nothing special,” until the canvases happened to be placed side by side to reveal a perfectly aligned landscape of what appears to be the Southwest. (Maybe Sedona? She’s visited the Red Rocks. But we may never know for sure.) Or the time she carried a picture from a magazine to her art class a few months after we began eating gluten-free. When she was finished, it looked like the honest-to-goodness hamburger in the picture…lettuce, tomato, bun and all. (I think she was telling us something!)

artThree of her pieces of art have been published in the book A Room of Golden Shells: 100 Works by Artists and Writers with Down Syndrome (Woodbine House, 2013). Yeah, it’s remarkable.

Henri Matisse said, “Creativity takes courage.” Yes, indeed. And she’s got plenty.