CHICAGO (CBS) — The gunshots seemed to come out of nowhere. When they stopped, a suburban artist was left paralyzed, but she kept fighting, using the canvas to do it.
Now Naperville artist Miriam Pare’s painstakingly precise work is about to be seen worldwide.
Each brushstroke has purpose. It’s a challenge for every painter, but perhaps more so for Pare, who paints by mouth.
“Learning to paint with my mouth was very humbling, but I knew that the knowledge was inside of me,” she said. “And I saw the potential.”
Pare learned her craft after a bullet left her a quadriplegic at 20. 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 hands fall off the steering wheel,” she said. “My eyes were open, and my hands just fell limp.”
Those hands were essential to her art, but now they’re useless.
But after rehab and learning to write her name by mouth, Pare became determined to paint again.
“It was like a lifeline for me,” she said. “And it gave me purpose. It gave me something to work on.”
Now 23 years later, Pare is 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 United States artists whose work was chosen to be part of MFPA’s annual Christmas card sale, the proceeds of which go back to the artists.
“They’re all aware of this gift that they have, but 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 MFPA artist counselor Kate March.
It also means Pare is a working artist, supporting herself in part through her painting. It’s an achievement for any painter, which is just how Pare sees herself.
“I don’t want people to say, ‘Oh, good for you. Oh, you’re a nice disabled artist. Look at the nice drawings and paintings you did,'” Pare said. “No, I’m an artist, and I want my work to stand for itself.”
MFPA has 800 artists worldwide, whose work is reviewed every year.
The shooter in Pare’s case was never caught.