Artist finds her place in world

Western Suburbs Weekly - - Art - Sara Fitz­patrick

WHEN artist Leah Pirone suf­fered an epilep­tic seizure 17 years ago, her life was shaken to the core.

Lucky to sur­vive the or­deal with no per­ma­nent in­juries, the then 19-year-old sought spir­i­tual guid­ance, ques­tion­ing her re­al­ity and ul­ti­mately find­ing pur­pose.

“Be­fore that point, I didn’t re­ally have the feel­ing that there was any mean­ing to life,” the 36-yearold said.

“I thought ‘we are just here: we go to school, get mar­ried and have chil­dren and what­ever else’, and the seizure opened up a whole other world for me.”

Pirone, who is con­tribut­ing art to an up­com­ing epilepsy fundrais­ing auc­tion, said her con­di­tion was like hav­ing too much light and elec­tric­ity in the brain.

“I’ve only had the one seizure, a tonic clonic, which is one of the biggest ones you can have,” she said.

“I was in a night­club and there were strobe lights. I hit the slate

floor at 60km an hour and had se­vere head in­juries – my head was bleed­ing, I had a cracked skull and when I came to, I had no idea what had hap­pened.

“I was rushed to hospi­tal and in ICU for two weeks.”

Pirone’s neu­rol­o­gist said it was a mir­a­cle she did not die or suf­fer se­vere brain dam­age.

He also said her sense of smell, taste and short-term mem­ory would never re­turn.

Against all odds, they re­turned two years later.

“One of the first things I smelt was the rain. From there, I be­gan to taste my food again and smell my hus­band’s af­ter­shave – the one thing I missed the most was be­ing able to smell him,” Pirone said.

“I have no last­ing prob­lems, all I have to do is stay away from strobe lights. I can’t go to con­certs, but I make my way around that.

“Live mu­sic is a huge in­spi­ra­tion for me (and her hus­band is in a band) so I go to gigs and take a scarf to cover my eyes so I’m not around flash­ing lights.”

Pirone’s work, As Above, So Below, is about the in­tri­cate web of life.

“It’s re­ally easy for us to feel con­fined by our phys­i­cal­ity and cir­cum­stances some­times,” she said.

“In a lot of my art, I try to pull the person into a big­ger per­spec­tive where you can get a bit more of an idea into our place in the world and re­alise we are not lim­ited by the ill­ness, whether that’s epilepsy or a men­tal dis­or­der.”

Pic­ture: An­drew Ritchie d465897

Leah Pirone, pic­tured in her stu­dio, is con­tribut­ing a piece to the up­com­ing Art for Epilepsy auc­tion.

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