By Charles Wade-Palmer
An artist who was left completely paralysed after being shot now paints jaw-dropping celebrity portraits – using her MOUTH.
Inspiring Mariam Pare, from Chicago, was left a quadriplegic when shot in the back, but through sheer determination is now living out her dream as a professional artist.
Soon after graduating from art school Mariam, 41, was caught in crossfire as she was driving to a friend’s house, but soon found a whole new way to paint again incredibly using only her mouth.
Mariam said: “I’ve always been an artist, I was at art school painting at a very sophisticated level and it was what I wanted to do with my life.
“As a disabled person who couldn’t use her hands I thought I would never paint again or work again I couldn’t fathom it. I needed people to take care of me and I couldn’t even live by my own.
“I was told to use my mouth to sign my name at which point I realised how much control I had I also realised my control was the same and my signature was the same which was the lightbulb moment.”
“When I had this life changing injury where I couldn’t use my hands I felt compelled to find a way to be an artist again.”
Mariam was on her way to a friend’s house 21 years ago as a passenger in her friend’s car when she was caught in crossfire and a bullet penetrated her spine.
The artist survived the shooting but with quadriplegia which meant she could no longer use her hands to hold a brush to canvas.
Mariam said: “Somebody was shooting a gun on the corner and the car that I was in was struck with one of the bullets which one passed through the head rest and hit me in the back.
“At the time I didn’t even know I was shot, I didn’t see who had shot me or why yet it changed my life forever.
“Witnesses were scared of coming forward in spite of a 10,000 dollar reward no one came forward.
“I think I’m proof that this can happen to anyone, it’s not a poverty problem it’s an American problem.”
The professional mouth-artist first discovered she could paint without her hands when asked to sign a document by holding a pen in her lips.
Mariam who previously avoided portraits now paints celebrities in jaw-dropping detail from David Bowie to Donald Trump.
Mariam said: “My skill was still coming out through my mouth even if I wasn’t that good first I felt a remarkable sense of control.
“I knew I had to keep trying and practicing and here I am now. I think my success story is that I was able to follow the dreams I set myself despite being quadriplegic.
“In art school my work was very academic, I was doing life studies and landscapes the very traditional oil paintings I wanted to be a fine artist.
“I’d always been afraid of portraits before and it’s only in the last few years that I tried portraits and I was quite good at them.
Mariam’s work will appear in a few gallery exhibitions this year in Chicago including her first solo exhibition in August.
She said those impressed with her work are shocked when they discover it was by her mouth.
Mariam said: “I often want my work to stand for itself without people knowing it came from my mouth.
“When people do find out they’re very impressed or don’t know even know how I manage it but it’s like second nature for me now and I can’t even remember what it’s like to use my hands.
“I owe a lot to my dad, he’s very proud of me but he’s the one who always encouraged me to be an artist all my life.”