The Power of the Spirit to Overcome
Cesar Rodrigues is a 32-year-old abstract painter from Worcester, Mass. His paintings have been showcased and sold in various galleries, and his first solo exhibition will be held May 2-June 27 at the Gallery Seven in Maynard, Mass. Cesar describes how his work “gives a feeling of freedom but can evoke many different emotions depending on the viewer.” Cesar also lives with spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) Type 2.
“I feel my diagnosis is both a blessing and a curse,” Cesar shares. “It’s a curse because of the battles I face in having my disability. But it also built my patience and endurance, making me appreciate life more than the average person. SMA made me who I am today.”
Cesar was not even 4 years old when he was diagnosed with SMA. Back then, there was no treatment for SMA, and doctors gave Cesar only a few years to live. He defied those odds and did not allow his diagnosis to stop him from following his passion. Cesar began creating art using crayons while in the hospital, where he spent most of his time as a child.
Cesar was in his mid-twenties when he decided to take the next step and pursue a career in art. “People kept showing lots of interest in my artwork. I want people to
feel happiness, hope, and encouragement when they look at my pieces. To do that was fulfilling,” said Cesar.
Cesar began painting people, landscapes, and animals with brushes and pencils. And despite the progression of his SMA, Cesar did not allow his physical setbacks to hinder his creation of art. He pivoted to abstract pieces and became more resourceful. He changed his process by pouring paint, using gravity and tilting his canvas to spread the paint. And, when Cesar lost all hand strength, he created a 2-dimensional painting system using Bluetooth technology.
In using this system, Cesar directs his assistant where to pour the paint and how much to pour. “My goal is to paint independently. The issue I’m having with the current pouring system is it’s not as accurate as I’d like and its difficult moving it around the canvas in such a small space. In the future, when I’m financially able, I plan to advance this technology, making it smaller and more precise to allow for more independent work,” he said.
Cesar understands that pursuing a career in art is not easy. What is his advice to aspiring artists? “Enjoy and love to create, letting everything else happen naturally. Never chase the money and fame,” Cesar suggests.
Reflecting on his time as part of Cure SMA community, Cesar notes: “I was introduced to Cure SMA through the children’s hospital. It was a great experience and I gained so much knowledge about SMA. It felt like family,” he remembers. Cesar continues saying, “It’s a blessing to be a part of both communities—knowing there’s a powerful team behind you that’s fighting day and night to end the disease, while also supporting the lives of people like me.”