My name is Petra Stokar, I have cerebral palsy and therefore spend my life in a wheelchair. My journey through art started in Holland where I am born. Art is the tool with which I could free myself out of the institutions. It opened my heart to the realm of possibilities and turned my world upside down. Everything that I was told by society turned out to be different and I started to ask questions to myself and the world around me. What are the possibilities of my body? How can I express my inside world? How can art help me to participate in society and share my very different experience with the world? Can art help me to heal parts of me?
Art for me is about bringing my emotions from inside to the outside, to make my process visible to myself and others and to be able to create a physical distance from it.
Painting is freedom, I can create everything I want. At the same time its limited by its form, once done it is finished, while the process inside goes on. So art for me is a never-ending evolution, a way, to make things simpler and create new space within me.
Art brought me all over Europe, for example to England and Spain- and finally to Switzerland, where I live now with my husband that I met in a dance class. Here I fell ill and had to go to the hospital. And was confronted with my limits again. Often I had to be in isolation but that gave me the space to think of the things that I wanted to do with my life. I decided to continue the art school in Switzerland and use my illness as a creative tool to reach my goals. I started to draw my experiences on paper and discovered that this was a way to communicate with the world outside, since I couldn’t speak German at that time. It was a way to express my feelings. I also used other mediums like clay and photographs. At the end of several hospital stays my portfolio was created.
It made it possible for me to start my master study of Art education. I could use and process my experiences from the past. The hospital in Berne even bought some of my first paintings.
Now I teach art to children at Quartierinfo in Mett, Biel. They are painting on a very big canvas and are free to paint whatever they want. Play is the basis of the artwork. It is an integrated process in more ways than one, because families of all generations are present. The children are from all over the world and painting is their way they express and communicate.
My physical limitations are used as an inspiration for artworks and therefore everybody is welcome, because art is not limited by the physical form and can be created by everyone.
In gratitude I look back at my transformation and my deepest thanks go out to all the wonderful people who were part of this process so far!
About my art:
“I am limitless” (2022) – Sometimes students use my disability as a way to inspire themselves as you can see in this piece. It asks the question: Is disability limiting me or is it giving me a platform to open new possibilities. It is a change of perspective. It is teaching the world about diversity and inclusion in a light and playful way. Play and curiosity are a key part of my art.
“The lungs of the ocean” (2023) – A painting created in the dark, a place where I usually do not feel comfortable. I poured different layers of paint and then turned the paper around very fast so it gave me an immense feeling of freedom and excitement. When I came home I saw to my own surprise that I had created a coral, I was dazzled by all the colours that had been flowing around. A few days later, I saw that there were a lot of animals hidden in the painting – those I started to highlight with fluorescent paint. Art to me brings hidden things into light.
“The breath of a woman in a world of her dreams” (2023) – Air is so omnipresent we don’t even see it but breathing for me is hard. For this picture I blew soap bubbles with an artgroup using a straw, laughing and coughing all the time. We painted a glass with rainbow colours to make the round shapes before highlighting them with UV paint to make them glow in the dark. This painting is about connecting to your inner child, letting go of perfection and connecting to our inner and outer nature. Flowers, feathers, bubbles, rainbow colours and fluorescent paint to me, are all little wonders of this world, they make us happy. Finding my joy in life and creating the world of my dreams is a deep heart process of mine.
“The window of the soul” (2007) is one of the very first paintings I made. I remember thinking already then that the page is too small and my spirit is much bigger. Therefore later my paintings kept growing in size. It is made with the Alexander Technique, which taught me a way to move my body more effortlessly even though I have enorm tension and spasms. Play and intuition guided my hand and only later I saw the woman and the horse on the paper. Ease opened the window for them to spring into this world.
For more information, you can contact Petra directly via email at firstname.lastname@example.org