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Artists prove that passion and inner strength overcome physical obstacles

By: Kenny Ehman

Date Posted: 1998-02-07

Noboru Shinmon and Naoto Kadekaru are two friends that share a common talent. They are both artists. Looking at their beautiful paintings, you get a true feeling for the images they create, which are often depiction's of Okinawa. Both artists have a deep passion for the work that they do, and their passion is brought out on to the canvas for others to appreciate. Their love for painting often inspires other people, and their paintings can fill the average person with envy and respect.

Shinmon and Kadekaru also have something else in common, which you would never know just by looking at their paintings. They both are confined to a wheel chair. The fact that both of them are handicapped does not need to be mentioned when discussing their art, for their talents go beyond the metal chair with wheels, which their life is constantly attached to. However, it is important to know that their handicap makes their work as an artist very challenging. The work is very strenuous, and they are more prone to fatigue than the average healthy person. This makes a painting become a long and patient process.

The physical difficulties associated with their illness are also compounded by other medical complications. Most people do not realize that someone that has become paralyzed must also endure a great amount of physical pain, and constantly be aware of other potential problems. There are respiratory difficulties, blood circulation problems, and trouble regulating body temperature. Adding the medical problems along with the everyday obstacles a handicapped person must face, gives you a better appreciation for the effort it takes to create such excellent art work.

Shinmon started painting when he was a child. He first started with water colors, and then began to use oils at the age of fifteen. "I was very surprised the first time I used oils. I thought is was much easier to work with, being able to put colors on top of other colors. It's also easier to fix mistakes with," explained Shinmon while laughing. Shinmon continues to work with oils today, painting scenes of Okinawan beaches and houses, in addition to other images. "I like to paint red tiled roofs the best," said Shinmon. His own favorite painting is that of a wheel chair, titled 'Dream", which is highlighted by a spotlight shining down onto the chair. A brighter and more spiritual light exists in the upper portion of the painting, giving the feeling of trying to separate oneself from the chair. Shinmon painted the "Dream" in 1985, which was inspired by the way he felt at the time.

Shinmon has never attended an art school. He simply began painting for enjoyment, which helped him emotionally during a twenty two year stay in hospitals. At the young age of fourteen he was forced to enter a special hospital in Kagoshima, because there was no hospital in Okinawa that specialized in paralysis. He came back to Okinawa five years later, when a new hospital finally opened here on the island. After spending another seventeen years in the hospital, he made the decision to live independently, despite the many obstacles that faced him. He remembered the day and explained "It was one of the best moments in my life. It's still very hard sometimes, but my life now is very enjoyable."

Over the years Shinmon has developed his own style of art, utilizing colors to enhance light and shade. His work has appeared at 14 different art exhibitions across Japan and also once in Australia.

Shinmon has been able to extend his great attitude and energy to other personal achievements outside of art work. He opened a school to help other handicapped people adjust to independent life. He has even gone paragliding, and looks forward to other experiences and challenges in the future.

Naoto Kadekaru also leads a very busy life, with his art work having been presented at 10 different art shows, including his most recent one titled 'East Meets West' in May 1997, which was in combination with the work of artist Joyce Trafton. Kadekaru began painting about nine years ago and became more interested in painting as he began to learn technique from Trafton, who has also helped to encourage the thirty six year old painter.

Kadekaru also paints with oils, and his use of soft colors make his paintings very pleasing to the viewer's eyes. His favorite images are of landscapes and cats, which have a very relaxed and peaceful quality to them. This soft quality comes from the artists own feelings while painting, which he says is usually very calm. "I don't really think about anything when I am painting," said Kadekaru.

The very soft spoken gentleman feels he has not yet developed his own original style, but sees himself as a constant student of art. He also plays around with a personal computer as a hobby, and he hopes to learn about graphics and create his own homepage in the future.

Both Shinmon and Kadekaru's work will be appearing at the upcoming 'Connections' art show, which will be held from February 2 until February 28 at the Tropical Technology Center, Guwa Inn Restaurant and Gallery, located in. Please call 935-5579 for directions.

The artists hope that many people will enjoy their work, which has helped them with their own personal lives. "I will be very happy if many people come to see my art," said Kadekaru. Shinmon spoke about his art work by saying, "It is my hobby, but I have also met many people through painting. I hope people can also share the same feelings with me."

Shinmon and Kadekaru may face many physical challenges as well as emotional ones, but what they lack in physical capabilities, they make up for many times over with their own inner strength and great personalities. Remember the difficulties these men face when you view their work, but also think of them for who they are. They are artists.

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