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I have drawn since I was able to hold a pencil. I studied art at Cooper Union and Brooklyn College, and originally planned to devote my life work to art.
Toward the end of my undergraduate degree, I got a part time job conducting art activities with geropsychiatric patients in long term care. At that time, I was completing coursework in photography, and saw this as an opportunity to complete the course requirements by doing a photo series on the lives of the institutionalized aged, while supporting myself with some baseline income. Little did I know that job would change my life course.
After graduation I kept that part time job, carrying the camera openly wherever I went at work, and was allowed to photograph freely, producing a series of photographs and drawing that were both powerful, and hard to look at. This was in the 1970's, when extended care was still under-regulated, and therefore the images were pretty shocking.
I worked at that job for four years as a financial base, continuing to create documentary images on the job, as I continued to work on developing my drawing and painting skills, selling an occasional portrait, and taking free-lance commercial art jobs as they came. Somewhere during the fourth year on that part time job and about 300 rolls of film later, I began to realize I had nothing more to say with the photographic images I was taking within the institution. I also had to acknowledge that, through time, I had become more and more intrigued with the impact of art expression on the lives of the patients I worked with there, and more and more committed to making a difference. I had come to a crossroads.
At that juncture, I was inspired and guided by a quote I had read by the artist Rico Lebrun, that went something like this, as I remember it: 'They said I could draw like a bird sings. Possibly I still can. But there came a time when the image of Man was so defaced, that bird song did not seem enough. If I had to lose all of my talents as a passable draftsman in order to speak clearly about the unmanageable design of the human condition, I would do so gladly.Talent is one thing, life is another.' Of course Lebrun was speaking about his art's direction in subject and style. To me, it spoke to choices in life work.
So, being a child of the sixties, and with this quote resonating in me, I chose a different path. I returned to school and obtained a masters degree in Therapeutic Recreation.
I have had a long and satisfying career as a recreation therapist, and have been blessed with the opportunity to participate in the many positive changes that have come about through stronger regutations, and the commitment of non-profit facilities as well as the health care professional organizations, to the development and delivery of high standards of quality care. A highlight, even now, was the opportunity to represent my profession in participating in the focus groups that gave input to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for the development of the Abuse Mistreatment and Neglect laws. These laws now rigorously protect residents in long term care from the abuses that had been the subject of my images so long ago. And I had the pleasure of quoting Rico Lebrun, as an inspiration for my work in long term care, in my acceptance speech for a Professional of the Year award in Recreation Therapy.
I have continued to paint and draw along the way, at some times more than others, developing a love of the watercolor medium.
I am delighted to have completed renovation of a fully functioning studio in my home, and as I devote more and more of my time to my art, it is wonderful to have the opportunity to share my work to others via my gallery website www.lora-serra.artistwebsites.com.