Theolia Norwood

Theolia Norwood I left Memphis in 1957 and headed to NYC to study art, but I only had enough money to make it to Chicago. I stayed in Chicago for the next 60 years, and that’s where I taught myself to paint. I was trying to stay warm in my apartment during one of those cold Chicago winters and was standing too close to the gas stove. The flannel shirt I was wearing got too hot and just exploded. I couldn’t get it off, and ended up with third-degree burns over a big portion of my body. The next three and a half years were spent in the hospital, nursing home, and supported living. I couldn’t bend my arms at all; they were just straight and stiff down by my sides. They told me I’d never get out because I couldn’t feed myself or do anything by myself, but I never lost faith. Then one day they told me about a doctor at Loyola who did surgery on people who couldn’t ben their arms, and they asked me if I wanted to do it. Of course I said yes! Look at me now. I’m 78 years old, can move any way I want to, and I’m back to painting. I’ve never used brushes. I’ve always painted with my index finger, and that’s how I still do it. Even if I could afford canvases, I prefer cardboard, pasteboard, and posterboard.”