As ReelAbilities draws to a close, there is still time to catch two films about visual artists Mara Clawson, in Living Art (by David Rochkind), and Adam Cohoon in Barrier Free: The Art of Adam Cohoon (by Fotis Kanteres).

Mara was born with an unusual illness. At first wrongly diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, her unstable blood pressure and heart rate, frequent pneumonia and insensitivity to pain indicated something far more complicated. In the end, it was determined she has FD (Familial Dysautonomia), a rare genetic disease that damages the nervous system. People with FD slowly lose their retinal cells and don’t produce tears (which can damage the cornea). Vision is essential to Mara. She not only uses it to produce colorful soft pastel drawings, but uses the art itself as a form of communication. As a child, she didn’t speak. She couldn’t talk at all until she was 5, and this only due to the help of a speech therapist. Instead, Mara thinks through pictures. Those images are like her children. She admits to loving romance, and says that it “makes you happy when you share things”. She does not share her artwork for riches or fame. She just wants to have a normal life. Mara says being an artist means having a heart. Her deteriorating health creates an unsure future, but she is quite a positive young lady. Her words of wisdom: We cannot predict things. Just live in the present.


In Adam Roy Cohoon’s case, he says the point of his art is to educate people on the issues he faces. What is it like getting around in a wheelchair? His photography often shows entryways, steps, thresholds to simple worlds he cannot access on wheels. To bolster his photographic work, Cohoon is also a painter and filmmaker. As an accessibility advocate, he is – through his art – constantly addressing the barriers he faces. He shares a common point with Mara Clawson, in that he is not looking to necessarily please others, but instead express feelings in his own way. He edits his work according to what he would like to look at as a viewer. As such, he is his toughest critic. If he is ready to show his work, he better like it! Naturally, he has a very personal take on visual mediums.


Two inspiring artists!


Living Art and Barrier Free: The Art of Adam Cohoon – 3PM, June 2nd – Innis Town Hall, Toronto (Cohoon and Kanteris will be present)