Trying to use her hands just got too frustrating for one young girl struggling at school during her early years in Prince George, B.C.
Finally, in Grade 10, Jenna Wuthrich decided she didn’t really care what others thought about how she got things done. So away she went using her mouth to write, keeping up in class the only way she could and, best of all, developing her art.
Jenna has arthrogryposis, a rare disability that limits the use of her arms and legs due to under-developedmuscles and joint contractures.
“With this condition, I had to adapt, and the only thing I could use was my mouth,” she explains. “It was so much easier to write with the pencil in my mouth rather than trying to work with it between my hands.”
Jenna has grown into a beautiful, independent woman, and her parents are proud of the artist she has become.
“I grew up in an artistic family,” Jenna says. “My aunt, Erica Hawkes, is getting to be quite a well-known artist. She’s been to art school, and her work was always around me growing up. She had her art published in a children’s book, and it was always a lot of fun to read, and so I just grew up wanting to do that—make art myself—so I continued to do sketching and painting.”
Portrait of an Artist
It wasn’t until 2020 that she really focused on her artwork.
She had a little art shop at that time called Beauty Within Arts in partnership with another aunt but it closed mid-2021 because of the pandemic. Now Jenna can be found on her website and Facebook under the same name.
Over the years, Jenna says she’s learned more about her Indigenous culture and has focused some of her pieces on that while also making art that moves her, such as creatures she sees in nature.
“A lot of my art techniques are self-taught and I just like messing around with the paint until I love the piece,” Jenna says.
Most recently, she painted three feathers on a drum her mother made for her. A little varnish to protect the paint and the drum will be good to go, she adds.
“When I do my art, I do research on it first, then I do a sketch and then I transfer the sketch to the canvas or the drum, whatever I’m painting on,” Jenna says.
Looking to the Future
During the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jenna went through a hard time financially and was supported by The Salvation Army. She was trying to get her own place together and needed all the basics, including a bed. When she reached out to The Salvation Army, organizers told her that she could trade her artwork for what she needed, and that’s how she was able to get her household in order.
“They were really awesome and helped me out a lot,” Jenna says.
Her landscape painting can now be seen on the wall above the cashier’s counter at The Salvation Army Curt Garland Support Centre Thrift Store in Prince George.
Looking to the future, Jenna says she’d like more opportunities to showcase her work in public and says a space at the downtown farmers’ market would do the trick.
The Salvation Army was really awesome and helped me out a lot." JENNA WUTHRICH
“People seem to like to watch me paint by mouth so I could do that at the farmers’ market,” she says.
But only when the weather is warmer so her materials and work don’t blow all over the place.
For a few weeks now, Jenna has joined the University Hospital of Northern British Columbia Drummers Group on Monday nights as they drum at the hospital to honour health-care workers and patients during the pandemic.
“The drumming is very healing and very therapeutic for me,” Jenna says.
Christine Dalgleish is a full-time reporter at the Prince George Citizen newspaper who covers arts and entertainment, community news and, most importantly, the people of Prince George, B.C.
Reprinted from Prince George Citizen, May 6, 2022
Photo: Prince George Citizen staff