• BEST IN STATE—Senior Courtney Schoen Lewis was named Best PR Student in Utah. Story

Despite crippling illness, artist still finds—and shares—beauty every day

March 4th, 2012 Posted in Arts and Life

By Betsy Blanchard, Jason Borba, Taldon Bressel, Maggie Euller, Alicia Facer, Curtis Lundstrom and Amanda Taylor
The Blue Streak

LOGAN—Everything was easier then.

Before the cancer.

Before the fall.

She could walk without thinking twice. She didn’t need a motorized chair. She could speak fluidly, easily. Her lips wouldn’t prune up after an hour-long conversation. She could write, draw and paint for hours. She was the master of her hands.

She was always independent, ambitious and open-minded. Always happy.

And she still is — even if everything was indeed easier, way back then.

“My whole life has been a handicap in a lot of ways,” Linda Loosle said. “But I always have been very, very happy.”

At one time she did her best to share that attitude with the world. Today, she shares it with fellow residents at Legacy House, an assisted living community for seniors who can no longer manage on their own.

Just one thing: Loosle isn’t a senior.

She’s 49. She insists that she still feels 29. Either way, she’s generations younger than most of Legacy’s other residents.

• • •

As a young girl growing up in Logan, Utah, Loosle was already passionate about art and writing. At 7 years old, she was creating stories and drawing pictures – two hobbies-turned-passions that would remain a constant in her life and career.

She earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education at Utah State University. And although she is a white member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, Loosle went on to earn her master’s degree at Xavier University of Louisiana – a predominantly black Catholic institution.

“I’m very culturally interested in everybody,” Loosle said.

It was that cultural curiosity that led her to Abu Dhabi, the capitol city of the United Arab Emirates, following college. She spent three years teaching there before returning to the United States to spend more time with her young nephews.

Ideologically and artistically, her time in the Middle East continues to be one of the greatest influences on her life. Hundreds of Arabic-inspired art pieces adorn the walls, shelves and doors of Legacy House apartment No. 207, where Loosle has lived since 2008. No one leaves this apartment without their name written on a card in Arabic.

• • •

Not long after returning from the Emirates, she discovered a lump. Breast cancer.

Following chemotherapy and remission, Loosle moved into her parents’ home to recover and shifted her focus to sculpting, painting and writing. But it wasn’t long before the wanderlust that had been constrained during her illness had returned. She stuffed her paintings — at least 100 of them, she said — into her car and simply began to drive. She stopped in Idaho to visit a sister. She traveled through Colorado and New Mexico. She sold paintings out of her car.

She eventually found her way to Arizona, where she came across the Wolf Gallery, a small gallery that has since been shuttered. The shop bought up all of her remaining pieces to sell.

Loosle went back to Abu Dhabi, then returned again to Arizona to teach at a community college.

“That is what I was doing when my world changed,” Loosle said.

Leaving school one day she tripped, fell — and broke her neck.

“When I came to, I was quadriplegic and I couldn’t talk,” Loosle said. “It was really funny because I had just finished teaching a class on speech.”

The quadriplegia was short-lived, but Loosle still lives with dystonia – an inability of the nerves in the brain to communicate to the muscles in the body – and functional movement disorder.

Suddenly art was a challenge — but it was more important to her than ever.

“Before she fell, she was doing beautiful artwork,” said Loosle’s mother, Joan. “After she came back from the hospital, that was one of the therapies the doctor said she needed. She needed to gain that skill back. It helps your mind, especially in her situation. She was always active and involved in everything and now that she’s so limited, this gives her purpose.”

• • •

Linda Loosle is always up by 5 a.m. After accomplishing necessary household tasks, she rewards herself with time set apart in her studio for art and writing. Inside the studio, she has closets loaded with her many art supplies. Pictures of her nieces and nephews sit on the bookshelves.

Her current project — a red and orange flower still life — sits on an easel by a window.

“I’m hoping to be done with that soon,” she said. “It’s just about finished.”

She is sure to write and draw every day, no matter how tiring it is. She sets a timer and limits herself to 15 minutes of writing time; if she writes any longer, her hands become immobile.

Some might be frustrated by the limited time for their art — Loosle has learned to revel in the minutes she has.

“She’s always had a lot of determination and a very positive attitude,” Joan Loosle said. “That is everything. She’s never been one to say ‘Why me? Poor me.’ That gets you down.”

Last fall, management at the Legacy House allowed Linda Loosle to have her own art show. She covered all of the second-floor hallways with artwork.Family and friends came to see the show. Now, each week, Loosle puts up a weekly display in the hallway outside her front door.

This week, Loosle presented her various ethnically inspired paintings and drawings, alongside sculptures from the countries that inspired them.

“I love her art. It’s beautiful. She’s so talented,” said Raeann Winslow, a family friend — 40 years Loosle’s senior — who used to go on weekend camping excursions with Loosle’s parents.

Winslow now lives just down the Legacy House hallway.

“I always make sure to come look at whatever she has up,” Winslow said.

• • •

Inside Loosle’s apartment, a two-part sign reads: “Only when we celebrate our sameness…can we understand and appreciate our differences.”

She lives by these words. Focusing on differences, she says, just leads to war. Beneath the sign hang six nearly-identical drawings of families standing together – the only variation is the race of each family.

It’s taken a while to get used to her new life — to get used to everything being harder. But Loosle is determined to be everything she ever was — and more.

An artist. A teacher. An inspiration.

“She shares her knowledge with anybody who is interested,” said Loosle’s father, John. “She paints with a message.”

And no one leaves her apartment without a piece of her work — and a lingering hug.


Tags: , , ,

Sorry, comments for this entry are closed at this time.