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Deaf woman speaks volumes through artwork

By JR Ortega
Dec. 28, 2011 at 6:28 a.m.

There's hardly a table in Dad's RV Park that Laura Lang hasn't painted. Untrained, Lang decided to test the waters and began painting different animal themes.

Facts About Deafness

The National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication Disorders estimates about 36 million Americans report some degree of hearing loss.About 2 to 3 out of every 1,000 babies are born deaf or hard-of-hearing.American Sign Language is the third most widely used language in the United States.About 93 percent of deaf children are born into hearing families, whereas only 7 percent are born into deaf familiesSOURCE: deafunderstanding.com, National Institute on Deafness and Other Communication disorders

The chilly winter air flutters tufts of short, mousey brown hair away from Laura Lang's face as she dabs a brush into a paint palette.

"Muh," the 44-year-old groans as she mixes soft and hard paint strokes onto a picnic table at Dad's RV Park - an artistic talent she recently tapped into.

Reds transition into yellows and gradually the parrot that Lang has been drawing and painting since the morning is brought to life.

Staring at her mother, Lang signs and uses facial expressions to communicate why she likes birds.

Lang breaks into a hearty laugh and claps. Her mother cracks a smile.

"Cause they're pretty" her mother translates.

Free as a bird

Lang was born partially deaf and by the time she was 5 years old, she was completely deaf, her mother Wanda Wilson says.

Today, Lang pretty much takes care of herself.

The family has moved around most of their lives and last lived in Des Moines, Iowa.

Lang graduated from Nebraska's School for the Deaf, where she learned most of her American Sign Language. Now, she's tweaked some sign language to fit her needs.

Lang has been drawing for about five years, but it was not until three months ago that she expressed interest in drawing and painting for others.

Sketching floral arrangements with chalk was what Lang first picked up on.

"She's very proud of them (paintings)," her mother said, smiling. "As are we."

In the past three months, Lang has painted picnic tables with lighthouses, floral arrangements, landscapes but more specifically, birds.

She has drawn pheasants, blue jays and cardinals.

Her painting is bright, detailed and vivid.

Not only is Lang communicating through sign language, but also her painting shows her overall mood - she's just plain ol' happy.

Lang may not be able to hear the high-pitched tweets of a bird, but that does not make the detail in her paintings less powerful.

"When God takes one sense from us, he gives us another," her mother says.

Communicating happiness

Lang hops off a slow moving golf cart and walks between RVs.

Seven picnic tables with her art illustrations are sprinkled throughout the park; and like any good artist, she knows exactly where each one sits and the drawing it displays.

"Well, I think we're going to another one," her mother says as Lang hops back into the cart.

Lang's mother passes by a table with a single parrot that was auctioned off.

Outside one of the RVs is Becky Watts, whose decor clearly shows her affinity for ladybugs.

Lang has painted a picnic table for her in the past.

The table sits in front of the RV with painted lady bugs and red trim.

Watts appreciates Lang's talent and is amazed by the work she does.

"She's fantastic," she says. "She really does great."

Lang smiles - a gesture that is universally understood.

Lang and her mother stare and silence ensues as they sign back and forth.

"What do you think about being able to draw for people?" her mother signs.

After a couple of seconds, Lang's mother sighs, smiles and translates.

"She just thanks God that she can," Lang's mother translates.

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