Just like Dorothy's Ruby Slippers

Photo of Artist Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux, Artist, www.mariauxart.com

Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux is a Saint Louis, Missouri Artist who creates large-scale abstract paintings in acrylic on wood. Her work is ornate and full of life and movements. Mary is an artist who likes to tell stories, and many of her paintings are inspired by poetry, literature or iconic figures. Each painting has an original handcrafted frame which is built by Mary's dad, Michael Radcliff. Mary agreed to share her story, her work and experiences as an adult dyslexic with Headstrong Nation.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

"Four & Twenty" - Acrylic on Wood - By Mary Radcliff- Harnetiaux

Photo by Robert Bullivant/Bullivant Gallery www.bullivantgallery.com

Dyslexia as a child

I struggled in school. I never received support as a student nor was I understood by my teachers. I was unable to connect to my work, which made me feel helpless and isolated. I was viewed as lazy and unmotivated. When I look back at my educational journey, I remember all the things my parents had to do in order to protect me, and I'm incredibly grateful they never gave up on me.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

“The Kaleidoscope” – By Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Discovering Art and the Creative Process

I discovered I was an artist when I was six years old. I won a coloring contest in my community and that smidgen of recognition felt so right and reaffirming that I gave myself the title, “artist.” At the start, my creative process with painting served to pacify my feelings of inadequacy in other areas. I always looked to tell a story and the stories in my heart inspired me the most. During a typical school day, or later in life while working at my job, I would see the painting I wanted to paint in my head and I would come home and try to capture it. I intuitively knew that I had this other “thing” that I was really good at. I’d dive into my paints and I would find myself.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

“Eve” – Acrylic on Wood - By Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Photo by Robert Bullivant/Bullivant Gallery www.bullivantgallery.com

What My Dyslexia Looks Like

I forget passwords all the time and find myself locked out of accounts—very frustrating. When I put things away, I can’t find them. I stack things neatly and within sight. I get rid of clutter. I have large glass apothecary jars that I keep pencils and crayons and paint brushes in. I would say that my days of working in retail actually helped me learn how to “display” items in an “artistic” way around my house—no one would know that I have problems with organization.

Paperwork/forms in doctor’s offices (or anywhere) is very hard for me to fill out. I have trouble staying on the right line and I always have to draw arrows indicating that I reversed lines. My dyslexia also reveals itself at times through my speech. People who know me well will attest to hearing me say on occasion, "I can't get my words out." If you have ever seen me in a yoga class or witnessed me dance, "The Electric Slide," during a wedding reception—you’ll notice that I have profound left and right issues. I work around these problems directly, without apology, and through humor.

Painting by Mary Harnetiaux

“Unexpected Journey” – Acrylic on Wood – By Mary Radcliff-Harnetiaux

Photo by Robert Bullivant/Bullivant Gallery www.bullivantgallery.com

Tools Which Help Me to Be my Personal Best

GPS is my closest friend. Voice to text is also a close companion. Spellcheck is my secret weapon. I ear read like a fiend. I have a voracious appetite for books and information. Ear reading is by far the most important tool in my life. People ask me if I miss the feeling of a book in my hand—like I’m missing out on something. I’m just fine with my Learning Ally or Audible apps, and tech. I wonder if a typical reader can paint their bathroom while eye reading? You see, my reading experience is pretty 3D. For instance, I planted all of my tulip bulbs while ear reading the novel, “The Signature of all Things.” I completed my most recent painting as I listened to, Neil Gaiman, narrate his own book, “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.” I would never view my ear reading experience as lacking in any way. These tools help me live a better quality of life as they help me accomplish more than I ever thought possible.

Success and How I own my dyslexia

To me, success as a dyslexic adult is understanding how I work—how I tick—knowing my areas of weakness and strength. My success is not about success in other people’s eyes. I've spent years battling that internal dialogue that constantly tells me I can’t do something, that I’m not good at anything, or that I shouldn't be a part of something important. Success is learning to control that negative narrative. It is being brave and curious enough to do that thing that fills me with a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It’s writing without worrying about the red line that highlights my errors. It’s painting that story inside of me without asking anyone for permission. To me, success is understanding that struggle and failure are a learning curve and that the bigger picture is owning it all while honoring my true nature in the process.

“Your road may be a jagged uphill trek, but you have heart, brains, and courage. If you look closely, you'll realize your purpose in life has been with you all along—sort of like Dorothy and her ruby slippers.”

Words for the Young Adult Dyslexic

Understanding your limitations is a form of intelligence, it's not a weakness. Own your personal story—even if it's not a success story right now. Believe it or not, your failure story is a blueprint for your success story to follow. Own it all. Find your joy and creativity. Don't allow others to fill in the blanks of what they think you are capable of. Fill every blank with your own personal narrative. You are no longer that voiceless, powerless child in the classroom. You are supposed to be here, and your perspective is wanted and valued. As long as you're trapped in a place of silence and shame, you are missed. Surround yourself with other adult dyslexics whom you feel are positive mentors. Never give up.

“Your road may be a jagged uphill trek, but you have heart, brains, and courage. If you look closely, you'll realize your purpose in life has been with you all along—sort of like Dorothy and her ruby slippers.”

You may visit Mary's website at http://mariauxart.com/ to enjoy her beautifully intricate artwork and read her personal blog.

Headstrong Nation is a movement dedicated to a radical new approach to dyslexia. We empower adult dyslexics to own their dyslexia, to understand it, and to develop new ways of learning and working based on their individual profiles.

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