Big heart, healing art

Following a traumatic accident that left her in constant pain from the resulting neck injuries, Deborah Friedson has turned to her love of art and is sharing that love with others facing life-changing difficulties.

In The Woman with the Elephant Heart, Friedson presents images created as a part of her recovery and acceptance of who she was, following a head injury more than 10 years ago that occurred when she fell after slipping on a patch of black ice.

After two rounds of physical therapy and neck surgery, Friedson struggled to come to terms with what was important in her life. She has been diagnosed with Dystonia, a neurological problem that leaves her in constant neck pain, and she has to get Botox injections to help alleviate that discomfort every 10 weeks. Despite those circumstances, Friedson decided to find a way to make herself happy once again.

"One day I woke up and said, 'If I can't get any better than I am today, how can I learn to be happy with who I am,'" said Friedson.

Using her background as an art teacher in the Niskayuna School District, where she still works part time, and her art education at Syracuse University and Wagner College in printmaking and textiles, Friedson used printmaking techniques with pens, markers and pencils to create visual layers of personal feelings and reflection to learn more about herself and who she was post-injury. From December 2005 through March of 2006, Friedson made nearly 30 different pieces of artwork on who she was after the injury and what it meant to come out of the other side and begin rediscover the joy in life.

After bringing a few of her paintings into her classroom and watching the emotional reactions of other members of the staff, Friedson realized that she was not the only person dealing with the issues of healing and recovering from tough times.

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