Jon Imber: The Painter Who Didn’t Let ALS Stop Him

Most people discover their dominant hand by the time they’re two or three.  From then on, that hand they instinctively use first.  It’s typically stronger and more coordinated.

Sure, there are some who are pushed to use their other hand for various reason, and there are those who are ambidextrous, but most people stick to their dominant hand when it comes to writing, playing sports or instruments, and creating art.

That’s what Jon Imber did.  Though many famous painters are known to be lefties, Jon always used his right hand in his painting.  That is, until 2012.

It was that summer that Jon Imber discovered he had ALS.  A few months later, as he began to lose functionality in his right hand, Jon completely changed the way he painted.

He began painting with his left hand.

A Master Painter

Though it’s possible you have never heard of him, Jon Imber is very well known amongst abstract expressionists and the New England art scene.  For 27 years, he taught figure drawing at Harvard University.

For Jon, his art was his job, his hobby, his passion, his life.  Though the doctors had told him he would start losing control of his body as the months progressed, he was determined to continue on, no matter what it took.

So he adapted his entire style.  Moving from his right hand to his left was tricky enough.  Not only did he have to teach his left hand how to paint, but he had to do so as he lost function in it.

Though his left hand deteriorated at a slower rate than his right, it was still losing control.  But Jon Imber continued.

He kept painting long after anyone would have predicted him to.  Even when he couldn’t lift his hands above his waist, he painted.  And because of that, he was able to tell his story through his work.  A story that will continue on.

Jon Imber’s Left Hand

Sadly, Jon Imber passed away last week due to complications involving ALS.  But his story will live on through a documentary that began filming back in 2012.  It’s titled “Jon Imber’s Left Hand” and it will be screening at the upcoming Independent Film Festival Boston at the end of this month.

The documentary captures Jon’s life as he transitions from right hand to left hand, and continues to paint even after losing much of his mobility.   Jon was able to view the film before his passing and was very pleased with the result.

If you happen to be in the Boston area, visit the IFFB website here for more info.  To view a sneak peak of the documentary, click here.

About Rollx Vans and ALS

Rollx Vans, one of the nation’s lead van manufacturers of wheelchair vans, partners with the ALS Association to help raise awareness and fund research in the hopes that a cure for ALS can one day be discovered.

If you would like to learn more about ALS, please visit ALS Association website here.

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