Spring 2021 Contributing Artist Statements

Andi Brown

“I am a trans occupational therapist, writer, and artist living in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Growing up, I never considered myself artistic. That was always the purview of my little sister. She was the artist, and I was the writer, in that strange way that siblings demarcate interests and talents.

In 2019, I took a contract providing occupational therapy in rural Oklahoma. One day, a car hit me and I sustained a brain injury. I was unable to work for eight months, and my wife had to take me to therapy appointments for my vision, balance, and speech. Because of the accident, I struggled with dysgraphia, meaning I could not read or write—my two great loves. On top of that, I had aphasia, so it was difficult to express myself verbally. 

I didn’t who I was anymore. It’s common for individuals who have sustained TBIs to experience what’s called identity disruption where you feel like that person you used to be died and now you are someone new. I even thought differently. Where words had flowed for me easily before, now I thought in pictures, which was hard to translate into communication with others.

I began painting to say the things I could no longer find words for. I painted my isolation and hopelessness, my fear that I would never get better. Painting was and continues to be a healing and transformative experience. Although I still struggle with language at times, and all the sequela from a TBI, I’m grateful for who I am now.

This painting is called All Aflutter. When I look at it, it reminds me of how I feel when my wife smiles at me. I couldn’t put that feeling it in words while I was recovering from my brain injury, and I still can’t now. It doesn’t matter. I painted it. It’s an expression of love for her and my disabled self. You can find out more about me at andibwrites.com”