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"The Dopamine Chronicles": a local artist's take on Parkinson's

Wednesday April 10, 2013

Britney Glaser

KPLCTV.com - When a Lake Charles artist was given the diagnosis of Parkinson's disease, he feared that his days of sketching and drawing would be gone because of tremoring hands. What Marty Bee learned, though, was that his art could be his release.

That release has led to an artistic perspective of the disease in Bee's "The Dopamine Chronicles," a humorous take on Parkinson's from someone who is living with it every day.

"When I start a new drawing, what I usually do is put in a gridline to keep me straight," Bee said about the drawing technique he has had to tweak a bit since his tremoring hand starting challenging his art two years ago.

Bee was driving to Arkansas when he first noticed the uncontrollable shaking in his right hand. "It was tremoring, even though it wasn't doing anything," he said, "I was just holding my hand on the steering wheel. I thought, 'I think I want to get this checked out.'"

This McNeese State University visual arts professor would not take a diagnosis from just one neurologist. It took three until Bee accepted that he did indeed have this progressive brain disorder. "Holy expletive deleted!" he said about his reaction, "what am I gonna do, because my hands are kind of the things I depend on."

What Bee decided to do was art, with the goal of doing a print a day to keep his hand skills sharp. "I can already feel the anxiety leaving just as I'm starting to draw," he said.

Bee says drawing alleviates his Parkinson's symptoms. "As I'm getting into the drawing, my symptoms are lessening," he said.

Bee does not ever forget about his disease. Instead he uses it as inspiration in The Dopamine Chronicles to laugh and educate about everything from deep brain stimulation testing on rats to a witch's cocktail of medication and daily challenges. "This is the challenge of drinking coffee while you're driving with Parkinson's," said Bee as he showed off a picture of a very shaky hand holding coffee just inches from the cartoon face of himself in protective goggles.

The Dopamine Chronicles collection now contains nearly 200 prints, finding humor in the symptoms, the diagnosis and the treatment of Parkinson's disease. "I'm hoping that it brightens the day of somebody who's either being a caregiver or has Parkinson's or just wants to know more about it," said Bee, "we need the humor."

Bee says if there comes a day when he cannot keep drawing, there are other career options. "Things I can do with Parkinson's: I can be a maraca shaker in a Mariachi band," he laughed.

But that is not a path Bee needs to pursue just yet, as he sketches away the symptoms of Parkinson's disease. "It's my way of going ha to the disease," he said.

Bee says there is a fellow cartoonist with Parkinson's disease in Alaska that also sketches the humor of the disease. Click here to check out The Dopamine Chronicles blog and website.

The series will be on display at the 1911 City Hall in Lake Charles beginning June 14th and running through the summer.

If you have Parkinson's disease or are a caregiver, check out the monthly support group in Lake Charles. It meets the third Thursday of each month at 1:00 P.M. at the Henry Heights Community Center on East School Street.

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