NAPERVILLE, Ill. (WBBM/CNN) - An Illinois woman who has used art to change her world has a spirit and a talent that can inspire anyone.
At the age of 20, Mariam Pare became a victim of gun violence that left her paralyzed.
But she didn’t let that hold her back. She kept fighting and began a new journey, one that’s about to be seen around the world.
Pare’s work is painstakingly precise. Each brushstroke has purpose.
It’s a challenge for every painter, perhaps more so for Pare, who paints by mouth.
“Learning to paint with my mouth (was) humbling, but I knew the knowledge was inside of me and saw the potential,” she said.
Pare learned her craft after a bullet left her a quadriplegic at age 20. The shooter in Pare’s case has never been caught.
She was in art school, visiting a friend in Virginia and sitting at a stop sign when it pierced her car and hit her in the back.
“I watched my hand fall off the steering wheel. I literally, my eyes were open and my hands fell limp,” Pare said.
Those hands, essential to her art, were now useless. But after rehab and learning to write her name by mouth, Pare became determined to paint again.
“It was like a lifeline. It gave me purpose, gave me something to work on,” she said.
Twenty-three years later, Pare is now an associate member of the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists, a group that gives stipends to artists accepted into the program.
This year, Pare is one of four U.S. artists whose work was chosen to be part of the group’s annual Christmas card sale, the proceeds of which go back to the artists.
“They’re all aware of this gift that they have, then when they’re selected, be it by us or one of the other publishing houses, it validates why they’re doing what they’re doing,” said Kate March, the group’s artist counselor.
It also means Pare is a working artist, supporting herself, in part, through her paintings. It’s an achievement for any painter.
“I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, good for you, oh, the nice disabled artist.’ No, I’m an artist and I want my work to stand for itself,” she said.
Mouth and Foot Painting Artists has 800 artists worldwide whose work is reviewed every year.