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On 9th St., An Artist Pushes Her Limits

Theresa Byrnes has been living in New York City since 2000, showing her art since age 16, and a rebel for as long as she can remember. “I have always valued being challenged more than being happy. Approval seems so stagnant and unexamined,” she wrote in her most recent blog post. And “I am not nice,” she said on her Twitter page, where she goes by the handle feistysparrow.

Ms. Byrnes is a portrait, abstract and performance artist in the East Village. Together, her three forms of expression make up what she calls her “holy trinity,” encompassing the body, mind and soul. The Australian-born Ms. Byrnes uses a wheelchair because of a degenerative nerve disease called Friedrich’s Ataxia. And yet Ms. Byrnes lives and creates with a distinct grace, fearless in her life as well as in her art.

“There is no forever,” she said recently in her East Ninth Street studio, wearing a paint-splattered smock and surrounded by works-in-progress. “It’s a bit boring to me, talking about identity and disability because my life is so beyond that. I’ve left all that way in the past.”

As for the way she sees life, Ms. Byrnes is firm. “There is nothing to fear, except your own illusion of identity,” she said. “Don’t protect yourself – reinvent. Break down the wall.”

NYU Journalism’s Robyn Baitcher reports.