Mary Annette Bizmaier, 71, understands that keeping the hands busy is often a key component to survival. In the two most trying experiences of her life, a divorce and a battle with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, Mary Annette flocked to working with her hands in order to quiet her mind.
“The first month of my treatment, I couldn’t work and I realized how critical it was to have something to concentrate on. I had too much downtime to focus on my problems. When I went back to work [as a dental hygienist], I came home physically exhausted, but my mind wasn’t exhausted due to worry. Worry,” she says, “is more exhausting than work.”
Mary Annette has always been an avid gardener, but after retiring several years ago, she wanted to find an activity that kept her hands busy all four seasons of the year.
Twenty years prior, as a new divorcee, she “started playing” with paint. “I had all this free time on my hands, and I needed something to take me out of my head,” she says. Mary Annette bought some craft paint from a local craft store and began dabbling in art. The idea, she says, was to garden flowers in the summer and paint them in the winter.
But when she began taking Dawn Johnston’s painting classes two years ago at Preston Arts Center, Mary Annette turned her hobby into a passion. Now, she looks back at how far she’s come with pride. Her weekly studio acrylic class with Dawn is an integral part of her well-being.
“Painting, like gardening, is spiritual. It takes you out of your monkey mind and forces you to concentrate. When you have to concentrate on how the play of the light reflects on the water, it quiets your mind. It is both an art and science.”
BY: MEGAN M. SECKMAN | PHOTOS BY PATTI HARTOG