Theresa Byrnes
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Good Taste
May 1998




...Theresa, 28, has never been light on drive and ambition. She left school when she was 16, opened her own art studio and, before she was diagnosed with FA, had already organised her first exhibition of monolithic sculptures incorporating electronics and plastic.

For the past 11 years, Theresa has exhibited her art work once a year In the meantime, she has lived with an Aboriginal community in Arnhem Land, travelled to Morocco, lived in South America, Brazil and Paraguay, opened a contemporary art gallery and worked as a curator at the Downing Centre in Sydney. “No matter what I’m doing, I always make sure I have time for my own art,” she says. ‘These days, I work on huge oil paintings, mostly on canvas. I’ve always felt challenged to do as much as I can — not just because I got sick but because my own vision becomes so intense and I get so excited about realising it.”

...Between painting, Theresa is working on the completion of an autobiographical book for Pan Macmillan which she hopes to release towards the end of this year. With help from friends, she has also organised dance parties and rock concerts to raise money for a three-year full-time scientific researcher to work on developing a cure for FA.

“Last year, many prominent contemporary artists like Ken Done, Jules Sherr, Lloyd Rees, Elwyn Lynn and Tony Tuckson donated their work for an art auction I organised. Charles Blackman became a patron and now opens all our auctions. Last year. we raised over $200,000. We used that money to employ a researcher to work on gene transfer systems — she’s been working on it since March last year, which is fantastic because it means any breakthroughs made will be generally beneficial. I hope they get closer to finding a way to cure FA — I would be a happier person if I knew no other young person had to go through what I’ve been through.”

For Theresa, the challenge of life is not about being disabled or having major obstacles to overcome. “The challenge of life is having the guts to follow your own spirit,” she says enthusiastically. “Luckily, I’ve always had that. I have nothing to complain about, because I’m free no matter how disabled my body becomes.”