ATHENS, Ala. -- After Lyme disease landed a Madison woman in the intensive care unit, she says it was art that saved her life. Now, her art has been sold around the world, and she's bringing her dazzling and distinctive style of art to North Alabama.
Two and a half years ago, Ann Upton wasn't able to run around with her five children. She had just moved from Hawaii to Alabama when she was diagnosed with sepsis and Lyme disease.
"When I got out of the hospital I was bed-bound, I couldn't walk; I couldn't get up the stairs," Upton said. "I needed full-time help, my family needed full-time help. So art literally saved my life."
She started painting as part of her rehabilitation, posting her work on social media.
"And it just took off," she said. "And the more I painted, the more my body felt better."
"Two years later I've shipped to all seven continents, even Antarctica - 37 countries and counting - and I ship about 200 original pieces off a month."
She said her style is based on her family's love of Hawaii - where she met her husband, had her kids, and lived for eight years.
"The meaning of ohana is family, not necessarily your blood family, but your community. Deciding to open this gallery is a way to connect that community and that aloha spirit, and that ohana back to Hawaii."
The gallery will be in Athens's old town square, in a building was a movie theater 70 years ago, and has been vacant for nearly a decade.
The studio will display Upton's art, host other artists, and will have a teaching space in the back.
"It's not paint in a traditional sense, where you paint with a brush," she said. "It's pouring and you use gloves and a mask and a respirator, and special stuff, so I think it's something this community has never seen."
To renovate the space, Upton started a Kickstarter campaign, where she's selling original art to raise funds for the gallery.
She said the studio will open September 15.