Beyond Books Community ArtShare Exhibit for May features local artist

Artist Emily Lau. Photo courtesy of T.B. Scott Library.

The Beyond Books Community ArtShare at the T. B. Scott Free Library during the month of May will showcase the journey and artistic experiences of artist Emily Lau.
Lau, who was born and raised in Merrill, attended Trinity Lutheran School and knew by third grade that she wanted to be an artist when she grew up, and she meant it. After high school, sent went to UW–Eau Claire and received a PFA in Illustration in 2014, and in 2020, she decided to make the move back to Eau Claire.
Lau, who shares a birthday with none other than Bob Ross, often jokes that she was meant to be an artist based on that alone. She likes using acrylic paints, colored pencils, and markers, but her favorite is graphite. “You can’t beat good ol’ pencil on paper!” Lau said.
Lau’s story took a serious detour from her life plan when, on May 12, 2023, at the age of 31, she had a stroke.
“I had been dealing with seasonal allergies,” Lau said. “I had taken Sudafed earlier that day without any problems. It was about time for another dose, but this time I felt a sharp pang on the back of my head. I thought perhaps it was just taking a moment to kick in, but then a second pang started. I quickly felt my face becoming numb and my vision became completely blurred. I fell as I managed to go from my kitchen table to my bedroom to get my phone and dial 911.”
“This all happened in a span of roughly 15 minutes of taking the medicine. This was the one time I had decided to leave my door unlocked,” she said. “I figured I’d lock it later after I got my mail.”
“God was certainly looking out for me extra that day,” Lau said. That unlocked door enabled emergency medical technician’s to get to her quickly.
“I spent a week in St. Luther’s hospital in Eau Claire before being transferred to Aspirus in Wausau to start rehab,” she said. “While still at Eau Claire, I didn’t have much of an appetite and didn’t eat much until my wonderful parents brought me pizza from The Pizza Shop all the way back in Merrill, and I ate an entire plate’s worth. Everyone at the hospital was surprised and figured that must be some really good pizza.”
“I had double vision for quite a while that also caused nausea, and I had to learn to walk again,” Lau said. “It did affect my coordination, but I joked with the doctors and nurses that I didn’t really have coordination before this happened.”
“Even though I couldn’t really draw until my vision returned to normal, I asked if I could just hold my sketchbook and keep it at my side,” she said.
“I went from nearly bedridden to a wheelchair … then a walker and finally walking again with no equipment. After a few months of hard work and determination, I was able to move back into my apartment in Eau Claire and live independently again.”
Lau’s exhibit coincides with National Stroke Awareness Month which is recognized during the month of May.
Lau will showcase a variety of prints from works she has done in her current and past sketchbooks, as that is her main source of catharsis and therapy – and not only during that difficult period, but throughout her life. She enjoys just letting loose and allowing the creativity to flow onto the pages, she said.
One page in particular features drawings from when she was still in the hospital. Lau dated her work to keep track of her progress, and she finds it very humbling to look back at them and remember how far she has come. Lau said this last year taught her not to take things for granted. “Whenever I get frustrated now, I just tell myself that I can stand in my shower, I can walk again, and I’m living independently,” Lau said. It puts things in perspective.
Lau’s life and artistic journey aren’t over yet. One of her next goals is to create and publish a collection of short stories that have no text and are strictly illustration. Just stand back and watch her go!

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