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The Mouth Painter

by | Nov 8, 2021 | Blog, Disability Culture, Disability Rights, Education

Image of a painting of Malcolm X a bearded Black man wearing glasses.

By Morgan Dunn | November 08, 2021

Glenneisha Darkins, better known as Glenn, is a Black quadriplegic artist and mouth painter from Miami, Florida. She was involved in a fatal car accident in 2010 that caused her quadriplegia, and soon after she became determined to change how the world viewed her disability. Two years after her accident, she learned how to mouth paint from other young Black artists on Youtube. By operating breathing controls, navigating brush strokes, and mastering oil painting techniques, her efforts turned into a full-fledged business! She finds inspiration for her paintings from many sources:  her childhood, difficulties she experiences, navigating life, and her surroundings. She later received her bachelor’s degree in Psychology with an emphasis on Women and Gender studies from the Florida Int’l University in 2018. Glenn’s goal is to inspire and motivate others through her personal story and art. She hopes to educate the world on dismantling the misconceptions of individuals with disabilities and help others feel the courage and strength to discover their purpose and share their stories. I met Glenn on the audio-based social app ClubHouse; while listening to her perspective on the lack of visibility on black disabled artists, I recognized how her story could positively impact others.
Image of Glenn, a Black quadriplegic woman, in a wheelchair in front of a white tent and a sign with a photo of her and her name.
M: What advice would you give other disabled artists and creatives? G: I would strongly advise other disabled artists and creatives to please keep going— keep creating and keep sharing your story. Throughout my journey as a disabled artist, I learned discipline and consistency is very much needed. When my purpose looked slow, bleak, I stretched whatever strength I had to find ways to stay creative. All sorts of challenges and obstacles definitely found its way to me, but I also found a way to make it work in my favor. I personally don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me or my situation so I strive to be better than I was yesterday. I look at myself as a source of motivation to keep creating what I want and what makes me happy. I found that those same challenges and obstacles makes for a beautiful story to share. You never know who’s watching! M: What are you looking forward to in the future? G: I want to continue to create so I’m able to be a household name in museums, in celebrity homes. I want to share my journey on a TedTalk. I honestly just look forward to expanding my art business and staying healthy! M: What do you do to keep yourself motivated and interested in your work? G: I schedule days to be in nature to see how colors complement each other. I listen to music and other creatives via podcasts or Youtube. I’m always looking at tutorials or documentaries on color mixing and oil painting portraits. I’m very motivated by other artists and when I see my earlier work, I challenge myself.
Image of a Nipsey Hussle painting - the background is white, and in the center is a man with black hair and big black beard and white-ish gray skin wearing a gray jacket with gold collar.
M: Thinking about the things you have created, is there something you hated but the public may have loved – and perhaps purchased? G: Yes, all of my Nipsey portraits. As I’m painting, I see it one way but at a distance, I second guess everything. Instant cringe. I want to do better when I capture him. I’m working on doing practice pieces with only him. M: Has rejection ever affected your creative process? Explain G: No, but criticism has definitely fueled my motivation to prove others wrong. I’m very sensitive when it comes to my art. Sensitive in a way that I’m motivated and inspired to prove to myself I am a real artist. I’m working on being more confident in art that isn’t what people want, but what I like and see as a masterpiece. So critics and negative comments has definitely affected how I approach my work. M: In your opinion, how can black disabled creatives stay connected to each other? What is missing? What’s already there? G: As of now, I found social media platforms such as Instagram, TikTok and Twitter are most effective in connecting to disabled artists. I utilized Clubhouse as well. I’m still learning myself but I know that browsing social media sites has connected me to some very dope disabled creatives. I also learned that getting into local events as a vendor helps as well. So, establishing yourself on social media and participating in local events, in my opinion, can help disabled creatives to stay connected. M: Anything else you’d like to share? G: Do things for the greater good. Your purpose is bigger than yourself. Stay creative and never give up!