Exhibitionists·Video

How a heart attack changed artist Alex Garant's life

What do Instagram, a heart attack, and blurred vision have in common? They've all been tools for transformation in the artistic life of Alex Garant, who went from a very serious hospital stay at 30 years old to a spirited life as a painter.
Artist Alex Garant on her recovery from a heart attack, and how it provoked her decision to become an artist, a gym rat, and to face every fear. 4:08

Alex Garant sits at an easel every day, but she has the musculature of somebody who pumps iron just as often. That's not necessarily what you might expect from a painter, but for Garant, her artistic and physical health are equally vital.

Over three years ago, Garant had a sudden heart attack, the result of a rather random virus. Faced successively with the prospect of her own mortality and a very long period of bed rest, she made decisions about what her life would be like when she was back on her feet. The result? A dizzying array of paintings of figures whose eyes relentlessly shift and make looking at the works something like experiencing vertigo.

But how do you get from deciding to be an artist in your (very early) 30s, to being an artist featured by Huffington Post, Mashable, and on the cover of magazines?

Alex Garant, "acrosstheuniverse"

For Garant, Instagram's been a rocket launcher. With over 54,000 followers in a gallery system that increasingly looks at artists' work on their social media accounts, Garant says it's been "huge to be on Instagram and get reposts and reposted by other artists or big art accounts, and it just built [my] fan base that way."

How does Garant remain immune to the disorienting effect of her works? "When I start working on it," she explains, "I just start from one corner, one eye, and I slowly build it up. So I only see one section at a time coming together. And once it's done at the end, then I can take a step back, and then I see it - I see that the effect is successful."

Alex Garant, "My Sister Has It"

See more of Alex Garant's work at http://www.alexgarant.com

Watch Exhibitionists Sunday at 4:30pm (5pm NT) on CBC Television.

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