Hart finds passion in art following a stroke

The new artist explores her passion through intimate pieces of work

By KRYSTAL NURSE

The Sun

Therapy helped Mantua resident Lisa Hart rekindle her passion for art and paint pieces beyond her imagination following a stroke in her 40s that forced her to retire early.

Hart described herself as a “happy workaholic who had a nice work-life balance.” She said prior to her stroke, she was buzzing with energy and would run and hike at Parvin State Park.

As a stroke and coma survivor, Hart said she now lives with permanent brain injuries along with her newlywed husband, Joseph, who also had a coma in his late 20s.

“I couldn’t work and I was forced into early retirement,” said Hart. “I couldn’t be as active. I couldn’t read.”

She found painting to be relaxing and wouldn’t create as many emotions as reading did, which triggered migraines. Soon thereafter, she was connected with an art therapist.

“I ended up seeking help through mental therapy to deal with the changes in my life because I had to retire prematurely and I met an art therapist,” she added. “She helped me discover my inner artist.”

Hart recalled her first painting to be of a covered bridge she did based on memory, and since then, she estimates around 50 pieces were done for others. Nearly all of her artwork is based off of architecture, and she would learn about the people who are commissioning the work and the building to add a more personal touch.

“Sometimes I paint from memory, and other times I seek out or I may meet someone I may connect with,” said Hart. “So in that case, there’s an appeal to that church and its teachings, regardless of the structure, so that in and of itself is somewhat magnetic.”

Her favorite commissioned painting, she said, was of a stained glass window in the St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Millville, which included a face — something she said she’s never done.

Her lessons in grade school helped Hart teach herself how to create as she had a “yearn for knowledge” and wanted to get high grades in school.

“It started out with the graphs, so I would remember being amazed, at 10 years old, saying ‘wow, it really works the way and it was balanced,’” she said. “So, I started out with the graphs. That really benefited me, and I was surprised that 30-some years later, something like that made such an impact.”

Since then, she’s been able to amaze herself with her skills and to exceed the expectations of the people who commission work from her, such as when she painted a woman’s business and was asked to do another work of her homestead several weeks later. She was provided with a photograph, estimated to be from the ’70s, to transfer to a 20-foot by 20-foot canvas, and the woman gave her more than what was quoted.

The feeling left her satisfied as it showed her what she could do in the field and what success she could have in it.

She showcases her art through various open-call art exhibits such as the Riverfront Renaissance Center in Millville and an upcoming one at the Ocean City Arts Center throughout January.

Hart said the hardest part of being a self-taught artist is she has to remove herself from a piece, and do it on how someone envisions it, and it could come with a rejection.

“If they’re not happy with what you did, you might have to redo the whole thing,” said Hart. “You have to be open and be able to see the whole vision because when you’re commissioning, it’s not your vision you’re putting on there. I might look at a building and see it one way, but they might see it differently.”

Hart added she and Joseph hope to merge their two passions (Joseph is an adolescent behavioral specialist) in the near future to help kids open up to him during sessions.

“One door closes, and another door opens,” said Hart. “I went from being a workaholic to early forced retirement, and I found a hobby that actually can pay off! It’s therapeutic, it’s a hobby that in turn, induces pleasure in myself and others.”