Allison Merriweather has been selected as the featured artist for Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital’s 2017–18 annual Art Ability Exhibit showcase, which begins on Sunday, November 5. The Houston-based painter, who lives with dyslexia and dyscalculia, says art helps her to enjoy a short-lived escape from reality.
Below, Merriweather explains her foray into art and how it helps her cope with her disability.
When did you first discover a love for art?
I always drew, from the time I was very small. But I remember the first time I was ever singled out for having artistic talent. In third grade, my teacher had asked the class to illustrate the story from a book and I was so excited. I spent a month on it and, when I brought it in, no one could believe I had done it. They thought my mother had done it.
When I was in my early twenties, I started to begin painting but I always drew. It was my refuge, a way to create my own little world. I have always had this.
A lot of your artwork focuses on animals. Is there a reason for that?
Animals have always been the focus of my paintings because they were always a huge part of my life. Growing up, we had a lot of animals—raccoons, an owl, armadillos and even a fox.
But sometimes the animals that I paint are a metaphor for something else. Animals mean certain things to me. An owl is not necessarily an owl; it might represent wisdom. A bird is not necessarily a bird; it might represent a message or a messenger. There’s more than meets the eye. It’s a story within a story.
How has art helped you?
In school, it was very tough for me because I had dyslexia and dyscalculia. When I was a kid, you were labeled stupid because you couldn’t see numbers and letters or tie your shoes or read a clock as easily as your peers. When you’re a child and you’re intelligent but you cannot read, that’s devastating. I felt like I was underwater all the time, and was trying to gasp for air. The only time I felt right was when I was painting or drawing. That was a big refuge and sanctuary for me.
When did you start entering your art into competitions?
On and off, probably about 15 years ago. This isn’t my first year in Art Ability either. I’ve entered several times, but this is my first year as the featured artist.
Your featured piece this year is entitled ‘Faith & Love.’ Can you tell us more about it?
I would say it’s a reflection of my feelings of what faith and love are. Those are animals that represent love to me, and the faith that you have that the future will turn out right. The animals are surrounding the bed which, to me, is a place of safety and sanctuary and beauty.
Visit, view and purchase artwork from Allison and other artists during the Annual Art Ability Exhibition and Sale beginning the first Sunday in November. The exhibit officially opens with a Preview Reception on Saturday, November 4, 2017.