Because of a paralyzing stroke 28 years ago, Gail Norman “speaks” only by head nods and eye blinks. But now, she has also become an artist. How did that happen? Well, someone came up with an idea that has made a big difference for Gail.
Most of the time, you will find Gail in front of her computer at the Meadville Convalescent Home in Franklin County. For about three years now, Gail has been refining her touch as an artist, although she really can’t touch anything. But that hasn’t stopped her.
She fashions her creations in a paint program on a computer by utilizing a Head Mouse. It sends an infrared beam that bounces off of a reflective dot on Gail’s forehead. Her head movements manipulate the computer’s cursor and by much patience she creates things like this.
Marvin Howard, pastor of nearby Mt. Zion Baptist church is the computer guru who helped put the system together and has helped Gail learn to use it.
“I have to say I’ve done the fun part. Gail does all the hard work. Her perseverance amazes me,” said Pastor Howard.
Each of these pictures takes hours and hours of subtle movement to create.
“I was just amazed because every little nit and tittle in that picture has cost her," said Sherry Reynolds, social worker at Meadville Convalescent. "If she has made a mistake, has to go back, correct it and redo it.”
Although Gail’s daughter, Kayla McDavid, and Gail can communicate with a system of eye-blinks, and, of course, Gail can now spell, put things on the computer, there is a subtlety of deeper meaning transmitted through Gail’s pictures.
“Like the owl back there? She called it the crazy owl when she first did it. She said, Oh I made that for you. Why did you make a crazy own for me? Am I that wild? And she said, No. It’s because you just had the baby and you’re up at night,” Kayla told us.
“To be able to express herself in ways beyond just the words had to be gratifying to her, to be creative. It’s a part of who we are,” added Howard.
And thanks to Brother Marvin (as well as the Meadville Convalescent Home, who installed WIFI for not only Gail but ALL of their residents) a whole new vocabulary has opened up to her. And since a picture is worth a thousand words, Gail Norman can communicate thoughts that mere words can’t express, through her art.
(For information about obtaining prints of Gail’s art or her calendar, email Gail at email@example.com.)
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