By Audrey Levinson
Cynthia King has spent much of the last ten years of her life painting in her DeWitt garage. She has Multiple Sclerosis an autoimmune disease that incorrectly attacks healthy cells of the central nervous system. This progressive disease was discovered in Cynthia about 20 years ago.
When first diagnosed in her early thirties, she was distraught and knew her life would have to change. As a wife, mother of two young girls and holding a full time job, over time she felt her disease progress. Mentally and physically she realized that she could no longer work and had take early retirement.
MS can be very depressing as well as debilitating so Cynthia decided that she would not focus on her disease, instead focus would be to live beyond her disease. She asked herself an important question, if I never had to work again, what would I do? Her answer, paint even if it kills me and she prayed that MS would not take her eyes, right hand, and her mobility until her girls were off to college.
When Cynthia was a student at Jamesville DeWitt High School, her favorite subject was Art. George Benedict, Sr. had recently joined the JD staff and was her art teacher. Cynthia felt that what was so wonderful about his style of teaching was that he taught his students how to really see objects as they were.
What influenced Cynthia was that George would point out that in the mind, an orange looks like an orange. We know it is round, has certain texture, and that the color is orange.
However, if you really look at the exact shape, and the way the light hits it, along with the transitions between them, you learn to see what the mind’s eye misses. George was an amazing teacher and the techniques he used to prove his case were paramount. During and after high school she and other friends would go to his painting exhibitions just to hear his exuberant talks or watch him paint. Cynthia said, “we were almost like George groupies” with a big smile on her face.
Cynthia feels understanding what you have learned mechanically, is using a paintbrush and a squinted eye to check perspective. There were many challenges along her path and now she was on her own having to figure out color theory and value transition without her teacher. At first she would put lots of colors on her palate but this confused her. She referred to books on color mixing and recreated portraits from old master’s paintings, like Van Gogh and Renoir and Michelangelo. Cynthia has a wonderful collection of those in her studio, and has learned to squeeze the oil paint right onto the canvas. This has helped her to capture the true color of the eye’s iris or the droop of a cheek.
Cynthia enjoys the challenges of learning how to paint. She compares it to playing golf. Any golfer knows that the more you practice your shots the better you get. In Cynthia’s case she will forever practice her techniques because, “life is a journey, not a destination” to her. Her paintings are a collection of flowers, portraits, and her latest paintings reflect the beauty of the Thousand Islands. She has exhibited her work at East Village Gallery and with Just Desserts Guild Show at the Camillus Library.
Cynthia continues to paint almost every day in her garage. She would like to one day turn her garage into an art gallery.
I believe this very strong, delightful woman can do whatever she believes she can, despite her MS.
She truly lives up to her philosophy of surpassing her disease.