One year ago Chelsea was so lost that she asked me why we had not just let her die. She was 12 at the time. The challenges and angst of a normal teenager trying to cope with the middle school drama of cliques and too much homework were exacerbated by the devastating depression of a disabled teenager questioning what her purpose was and realizing that the drive to find her identity was taking her down a very dark lonely tunnel with seemingly no light at the end of it. She was lost.
Adults are always asking her “what do you like to do?” Chelsea looks at them in disbelief most of the time and then I say – well she reads, and she watches TV and we go to the movies and we do a lot of Youtube etc and I list all the things that she waits patiently for one of us to have the time and the patience to do with her. When she wants to read, which is every day, someone still has to turn the page of the books (ah Steve Jobs if you are listening in Heaven please send your wisdom to someone to make the page turner for me…) and for four hours on Saturday that someone was her Dad and the book was the second part of the Hunger Games series and it was great for her and quite frankly dull and irritating as hell for him.
If Chelsea wants to do anything: to read, to eat, to watch TV, surf the web, scratch her nose or move a hair from eyes, heck most of the time if she needs to fart someone has to be there to help her or do it for her. In the darkness of the night she lies in bed with only the regular hiss of the ventilator and across the room either her father or I will be sleeping or on our computers. She cannot lift a finger to press a button so she clicks her tongue to create the loudest noise she can to catch my attention or to wake me up. Sometimes it takes a minute or two and the despair and fear on her face when I get to her to administer to her needs is heart breaking. Move my head Mom is the most common request as her spasming body regularly contorts her legs and arms and pushes her around the bed and takes her head off her pillow. She usually smiles, occasionally says thank you (read here), but will always ask me to sit next to her, to stoke her face or her arm, to just be close to her so she isn’t alone.
While all around her kids describe themselves by what they like to do (sport, dance, act, bake, play chess, computer games whatever) her lack of “doingness” has made it made it hard for her to “be” something or see herself as someone.
That’s why painting is so important to her, it’s something that empowers her and she takes the lead with. (read her blog post Why I Paint) Of course she still needs lots of help but she does the painting – she drives her wheelchair through the paint and creates magic.
When people ask her what she likes to do now she tells them that she paints, she tells the story of why painting fulfills her and how she has inspired people with her art.
She has a purpose and the longed for light at the end of the tunnel illuminates a huge sign it reads – Paintability by Chelsea Fairclough (Artist aged 13 ¾).
May 10, 2012 6pm at the ReDot Fine Art Gallery Singapore
The Paintability Exhibition is a fund-raiser for the Make A Wish Foundation and to raise funds for her spinal surgery in the summer. There’s a limited edition catalogue and prints of her work and you will be able to see them all and bid on them very soon – no matter where you are in the world.
Chelsea Fairclough – Artist: Like the sound of that.