Artist unable to use hands after shooting, defies disability and paints using her mouth

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Mariam Paré paints the stars, living and of the past. She also captures landscapes we all know and even picture perfect holiday moments. But Mariam does it all without the use of her hands.

“When I was starting out, I had no idea there were any other artists painting with their mouth,” Paré said.

The artist, who paints only using the smallest movements of her mouth with a paintbrush skillfully tucked between her lips, came to this style of painting at 20.

Her world was shattered then when she became the unintended victim of a gunman’s bullet while sitting in her car in Virginia. The gunshot shattered her spine between her shoulder blades. She was never able to paint using her hands again.

The gunman was never identified or caught.

“It was a life changing injury,” Paré said.

The accomplished art student thought her career was over before it ever had a chance to begin. But a therapist’s suggestion to re-learn how to sign her name by using a pen propped in her mouth inspired her to give painting a try again.

“The first couple of drawings and paintings with my mouth, I was starting all over with stick figures,” she said. “In a time where it was all about what I couldn’t do anymore, art was something I could still do.”

Over time, Mariam again found her art style, her voice on the canvas, could all be re-learned with her mouth. Soon she saw the wonderful echoes of her formerly deft hands on the canvas.

“I had the ability to paint in my head and heart but trying to bring it out with my mouth it was so humbling,” Paré said. “It empowered me and changed my attitude and gave me hope and purpose in a real time of uncertainty.”

She paints those who inspire her, from David Bowie to John Lennon. She’s even been able to share her portrait work with the actor Pierce Brosnan, as well as TV personalities Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.

What gives her even a greater sense of accomplishment? Letting others in the disabled community know they too can excel.

“I want them not be discouraged if they’re not good at something right away,” Paré said. “Life is new. You’re learning things over again.”

A wonderful sense of her accomplishment comes from selling her work through the Mouth and Foot Painting Artists. It’s a for-profit community of 800 artists worldwide who paint to support themselves, founded 60 years ago. She said there’s another message in her art.

“I think sometimes people can underestimate people with a disability,” Paré said. “Find where your talents lay and where you have value. I didn’t compromise just because of what happened to me.”

For more on the community of artists, go to:

Watch the time lapse video of Paré painting David Bowie below.

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