One of life's most anticipated rites of passage occurs at age 21, a time when most people are looking toward the future and the promise it holds. When Oklahoma City artist Tammy Brummell turned 21, she was diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.
While this degenerative muscle disease would eventually rob Brummell of some mobility, her passion for art has remained undiminished. The graphic designer and photographer is one of five artists whose works will be spotlighted at Istvan Gallery through April 30.
“Viewing her work, one would never guess that the artist suffers from muscular dystrophy, and each piece she produces is not only a labor of love, it is a labor of pain,” said Stephen Kovash, owner of Istvan Gallery.
Brummell combines photography with graphic design elements to create works with multiple layers. In addition to using a palette of vibrant colors, Brummell often employs vintage wallpaper and fabrics in her creations.
“Sometimes I'll take a photograph and start layering it with other images until I get the colors I like,” Brummell said of her artistic process. “Then I'll do some deconstruction and remove parts of the image to let other layers come through.”
Although confined to a wheelchair for the past seven years, Brummell retains a positive outlook. Her increased involvement in the visual arts community has not only resulted in greater artistic recognition, but has also given her motivation to continuing working.
“Creating art gives me a sense of accomplishment,” Brummell said. “When other people express their admiration for your work, it makes you feel like you're going in the right direction. That has been a huge motivation for me.”
In addition to the Oklahoma Visual Arts Coalition's annual “12 by 12” art show and the “Girlie Show,” a showcase for female artists, Brummell has contributed designs for the Oklahoma City-based American Choral Directors Association.
“They'll send me articles and I will research what they're about so I can make the art work tie into the article,” Brummell said. “I've also done some posters for a few local bands, which is a completely different style of art.”
Brummell says that while her type of muscular dystrophy progresses more slowly than other forms of the disease, she has been forced to rely more and more on family and friends for assistance. As for her artistic pursuits, she says she'll continue as long as her health permits.
“I'm very fortunate to have people who come in to help me,” Brummell said. “With muscular dystrophy, you really don't have a choice. You have to keep on going and continue to do what you love.”
Joining Brummell in the Istvan Gallery exhibit are mixed-media artist and sculptor Nathan Lee, Mexican artist and self-taught fresco painter Carlos Tello, Peruvian artist Enrique Cordova and mixed-media artist Clint Stone.
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