2019–20 featured artist: Carol Spiker

Up, Up and Away
Medium: Oil on paper

Carol Spiker, a former patient at Bryn Mawr Rehab Hospital, has always had a passion for graphic arts. As a busy mom who raised two boys, Carol worked for an ad agency, did a great deal of volunteer work, ran a couple of marathons, and started a lacrosse program that ran for 26 seasons. She then returned to school in the late eighties to study painting, as she wanted to begin creating art that was inside-out versus outside-in. This journey continues today after a few big twists and turns along the way.

In 1998, Carol was thrown into a creek when her car was hit on I-95. She realized immediately that she was paralyzed, and her only words were: “thank God I have my hands.” Yes, being paralyzed makes painting more difficult, and she can no longer tackle that 8’ x 10’ canvas. But, she can still paint. She is one of the lucky ones, and art has become a driving force in her life, a focus that has sharpened even more after her accident.

Painting is her passion—no matter how often she has explored other directions, the figure continues to pull her back to a brush and a canvas. Carol has found that color choices are an important part of her creative process. Her decisions involving colors have evolved over time and reveal evidence of her feelings, while at the same time grow into beautiful passages that empower the picture’s surface. Carol says, “I would have loved to hang out with Richard Diebenkorn and the Bay Area Figurative painters in the 50’s or Milton Avery in NYC in the 40’s!”

Making art exposes oneself, and for Carol, it can be scary. Over time, she has learned that it takes courage to put your creations out there to be seen by the world and for others to judge. Somehow, this understanding—that she must be brave—has helped her through her twenty-year journey as a paraplegic.

2018–19 featured artist: Maureen Collins

Autumn Rain
Medium: Photography

My art weaves through photography, fabric design, porcelain and silver jewelry, collage, and painting. Inspiration is everywhere: everyday images, sounds, a well turned phrase, colors, textures, the tension of contrast. Re-interpreting each allows me to make them uniquely my own. Creativity is a core part of my soul’s expression. A life changing illness, Guillain-Barre Syndrome, years ago left me hospitalized and paralyzed for seven months, with many years of physical therapy in the recovery process. It challenged me to find new modalities of expression, as I learned to move and walk again. Deficits on my left side, in my hands and feet made me explore different ways to express my creative core. Being able to work in the exquisite earth of porcelain again became PT for my hands, and healing for my soul. My work in photography, with printing on metal, has morphed into printing on fabric. The symbolism of moving from paralysis (metal) to fluidity (fabric) is represented here, with the same image being replicated on each substrate. The healing process is the link between the two.

All of the challenges, sensory deficits, pent up feelings of being immobilized for so long gifted me with an unfailing sense of gratitude for the abilities that I recovered. It also infused me with exquisite qualities of hope, to which I anchored my next anticipated movement, my next achieved step, my next desired adventure. Hope was the catalyst that I enlisted to help me move forward, a synergistic partner with creativity, an incentive that propelled me through each day and night. I am grateful for art and creativity in the process of recovery, for the ability to share the beauty and uniqueness in the gift of each day. My mantra now is “Do what you can’t!” It inspires me to believe that I can do things that I once thought I couldn’t.

It gives me hope.

2017–18 featured artist: Allison Merriweather

Faith & Love
Medium: Acrylic on canvas

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.

Merriweather explains her foray into art and how it helps her cope with her disability.

Read the rest of Allison’s story

We welcome any artist interested in participating to contact us at artability@mlhs.org or call 484.596.5607 to provide your name and contact information for our mailing list.