Art and Movement: An Artist's Connection to Lou Gherig's Disease

Prize4Life is holding its Art, Life, Spring, Art Auction, from May 3 to June 3, 2010, with all proceeds going directly to support Prize4Life's mission of treating and curing Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (known as ALS or Lou Gehrig's disease). Contributing painter Miriam Cabessa shares her thoughts on the physical process of making art, disease, and a part of life that is cruelly stolen from ALS patients -- physical mobility and control.

I was delighted to have been invited to donate my painting to the Prize4Life auction benefiting ALS. My first instinct was to say yes, although I did not know much about the disease. As I began to do a little research, I found that my work is actually in a canny conversation with ALS.

You see, my paintings are intensely physical. In my work, I do not use a brush; I use my hands, body, and controlled breathing to move pieces of cloth or other household objects across wet surfaces of oil paint and turpentine. My paintings are less about materials and visuality than about the physical aspect of their creation -- although the visual effects achieved are quite arresting. Researching ALS made me realize that my muscle coordination and sense of control are faculties and perceptions that I too easily take for granted.

The physical nature of my painting developed serendipitously. Living in Paris after art school in Tel Aviv, I found myself at an impasse, artistically. One afternoon, while drawing with graphite and turpentine on paper, my little finger accidentally hit the liquefied surface. The effect was that of a three dimensional finger: I'd achieved that "Eureka!" moment that would guide my artmaking for the next seventeen years. When researching ALS, I thought back to the power of that moment in Paris: the simple act of the controlled movement of a finger.

I also thought about the power of support and community in a figurative sense, and how alone, one can achieve very little. Without support from the creative and philanthropic communities in New York and Israel, I would not be in a position to give back to Prize4Life. I moved to this country from Israel ten years ago, where I enjoyed a very successful career as an artist: I represented Israel in the '97 Venice Biennial; won the prestigious Gottesdiener Prize; and had a solo show at the Tel Aviv Museum of Art. It has taken me a number of years to feel rooted in the New York art world, and one of the joys of feeling a part of, is the privilege of donating work to meaningful causes such as this.

Painter Miriam Cabessa's piece "Gold Landscape" is available for auction on Charitybuzz at: All proceeds go directly to benefit Prize4Life, a registered 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. Prize4Life is a nonprofit organization dedicated to treating and curing ALS/Lou Gehrig's Disease using the incentive prize model and other methods of distributed innovation.