This Paralyzed Artist Paints Beautifully — With Her Mouth

Mariam Paré always knew she'd spend her life making art. One single day, however, changed how she would execute her passion — at 20 years old, Paré sustained a gunshot wound to her spinal cord that left her paralyzed. While she still had some control over her upper body, she didn't believe she'd be able to recover the motor skills in her hands to paint as well as she had before her injury. Like any true artist, she came to a creative solution: "A therapist had taught me to write my name with a pen [in my mouth]," Paré tells us. "And immediately, I thought, I can paint this way. If I can write my name this way, I can paint this way."
Of course, it didn't come easily, and it took her some time to hone this technique. "It was terrible! I was really, really bad at it, but it was better than trying to use my hands," Paré says. Her passion for painting drove her recovery, and in the past decade she has risen to prominence, as both an artist and an advocate for people living with disabilities. She hopes to continue to express this part of her identity in her art, so that others may feel comfortable to do so, too.
In describing an upcoming project, she mentions her excitement around its larger purpose: "It’s a way of humanizing disability culture, or subtly injecting disability culture into mainstream imagery, in a way that makes it kind of digestible to the public." It's with equal parts talent and tenacity that Paré has made artists with disabilities far more visible.
Click ahead for a selection of Paré's work, and for her thoughts on the therapeutic power of art.

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