I had the honor to speak recently with Connecticut artist, Amy Oestreicher, about her life, projects, what it means to be a “detourist”, and the transformative power of art. For those unfamiliar with Amy, she is an Actress, Artist, Playwright, Teaching Artist, and Author. She has penned and performed her own one woman show “Gutless and Grateful” and is currently working on two additional one woman shows, the first which pays homage to her grandmother, a holocaust survivor, and the second which features her creating paintings on stage. She has given two acclaimed Ted talks and is working on a third. She helps PTSD and sexual assault survivors and speaks to universities across the country. She is a Huffington Post columnist and a Global Speaker/SheSource Expert who has been featured in Cosmopolitan and on NBC’s Today Show. Without exaggeration, she is one of the most impressive, inspirational artists and humans I’ve had the good fortune to come in contact with.
Amy is a self-described detourist, which by her definition is “someone who has had something in life happen that they didn’t expect – good or bad. A detourist travels along detours – simple enough. But in addition, a detourist embraces those unexpected routes as opportunities for growth, change, and self-fulfillment.“
Taken from her website, here is a short summation of the beginning of her detours: "Amy Oestreicher was an ambitious, audacious teenager who had her life all planned out: go to college, win a Tony, and conquer the world. But life took an unexpected detour when the week before her high school senior prom, she found herself in unusual pain. She was rushed to the emergency room, and due to a blood clot, Amy’s stomach exploded to the ceiling of the operating room. After both lungs collapsed, she almost died. Months later, she awoke from a coma covered in tubes, bags, and drains, and was told that she had no stomach anymore, she could not eat or drink, and it was not certain if or when she would ever taste one bite ever again. It took 27 surgeries and six years, but eventually, Amy was miraculously reconstructed, and with the intestines she had left, was given a system that digests food.”
It was during her recovery in the hospital that she first explored creating as a visual artist. She has always been an actress and a writer, but confined to her hospital bed mixed media creation became the only physical art outlet she could experience. Click here to visit Amy’s online galleries.
“I see creativity as a pathway that connects who you were to who you are (before this and after an event). Art is a way to practice these thoughts. Art is training for life. I never judge my stuff. For me the journey is in doing it. Sometimes there is joy in the journey and sometimes there isn’t but after being numb, feeling either way is a good thing.”. - Amy Oestreicher
When asked how art has transformed her life, this was Amy’s response: “It’s made me keep going, and it’s allowed me to let go of the life that I thought I would always get back. As an artist you can reimage, recreate, you become larger than the identity you thought you were because you make it yourself and that’s really empowering.”