In 1989, actor Daniel Day-Lewis was catapulted into the ranks of major film stars with his riveting performance as Christy Brown, the Irish artist who, afflicted with cerebral palsy since birth, nevertheless managed to become a highly regarded painter.
The film, "My Left Foot," won Day-Lewis an Oscar and provided an inspirational account of one individual's determination to give full expression to his artistic soul despite an overwhelming physical handicap. The instrument of this expression, as the title implies, was his left foot.
A few months ago, a new site on the Web revealed there are many Christy Browns all over the globe who are pursuing successful artistic careers despite physical handicaps.
The Web site (www.amfpa.com) is the creation of the Association of Mouth and Foot Painting Artists Worldwide, an organization founded in 1956 by Arnul Erich Stegmann, a polio-stricken German mouth artist who banded together with 16 other foot and mouth artists from across Europe.
"For artistically active people who, as a result of illness, accident or a congenital disability, are unable on their own to make their works known to a broader public, the association has become an extended international family which ensures their artistic development and a large degree of financial independence," explains AMFPA President Marlyse Tovae, a foot artist and founding member, in her opening message.
The group has organized exhibitions, sold works and passed work on to publishing houses to be reproduced as art postcards and calendars. Its determination is embodied in its slogan: "No pity please."
The Web site serves to continue that work and, using chat functions, create an online community where AMFPA's nearly 500 members in 60 countries can keep in touch. It also serves as a virtual gallery where browsers can view and purchase artworks and learn about the artist.
"When I was a fourth-grade pupil of the primary school," says Japanese mouth artist Iwao Adachi, "I climbed the iron pylon of the substation to catch chicks of sparrowes [sic]. And I was engulfed in a shower of sparks out of 33,000 volt high tension cable. My both arms were amputated."
Three years later, with a paintbrush in his mouth, he began teaching himself watercolor, china ink, dessin and oil painting. You'll see the impressive results of his determination. As with so much of what's on the site, had you not known in advance, you would never guess the artist was handicapped.
Needless to say, the AMFPA site has many inspirational stories. As Tovae says in her message: "Only those who are themselves physically handicapped can appreciate how much it means to be largely independent of public welfare and state assistance; for most of us it means everything: our very life and personal freedom."
Pub Date: 6/29/98