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October 31, 2014
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Worth a thousand words!

Jeannie Bartolo creates paintings like this with a custom made brush attached to head gear.


Checking my negative attitude at the door, I read on. “By giving these individuals the tools to create, they have been given the ability to express themselves.” Sullivanarc’s mission is “to enable persons of all ages with disabilities to live as contributing, valued members of the community.” Glancing around the room, I became intensely aware of the fact that my months of discomfort were nothing in comparison to a lifetime of challenges that some of these artists have not only endured, but risen above.
One of these inspiring artists, Jeannie Bartolo, who has limited movement, paints with “a custom-designed brush attached to the end of a fishing pole, which is then attached to head gear. As a result, her neck muscles have strengthened and she is able to paint more freely.”

Bartolo was not in attendance, but Lenny Dalby, who paints with his feet, was—and I approached him and his instructor, creative arts specialist Vince Sanborn. “Lenny doesn’t let his disabilities stop him,” Sanborn said. “We do things (like painting) to celebrate their achievements. This is one of those things.”
Dalby was happy to oblige when I asked him to pose with one of his works of art, while I enthused over his award-winning self-portrait, which I had seen on display at Jeff Bank in Monticello. “I can’t even draw a stick figure,” I told him. “Your artistry and ability boggle my mind.” Lenny laughed at my observation and spun his wheelchair around, delighting in my exclamation, posing for another shot with his pal Jay Pusey.

Uplifted by the sheer genius of these artists, I strolled the gallery with Sullivanarc public relations coordinator Joan Glase and executive director Susan Diamond, feeling my self-pity wash away as each painting spoke a thousand words. Any thoughts of my own recent challenges faded to black as I became more and more impressed with the incredible accomplishments of these talented individuals and the dedicated staff at Sullivanarc.

The meaning of the age-old expression (widely attributed to a Chinese proverb) is clear. “A picture tells a story just as well as a large amount of descriptive text” (www.phrases.org). Unable to express myself with paintbrush in hand, I have no choice but to resort to (a few hundred) words.

On display until March 31, “Expressions 2012” should (IMHO) be on everybody’s list of destinations as spring invites us to explore the world around us. As for my personal mission? Whining is officially off the table.