“My mother always said, ‘Art is the best medicine,’” says AJ Brightman.
In the summer of 1980, Brightman’s mother and artist Leslie McCool was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. McCool passed away May 1, 2018, but her son, along with her brothers and sisters, keep her spirit alive through a website and Facebook page featuring her art.
Brightman, who was McCool’s full-time caretaker and currently splits his time living between Vermont and New York, says her art provided an outlet that transcended the limits of her disease. McCool painted hundreds of pieces, with Brightman’s assistance, but was modest about her talents, often offering art to people who visited their apartment.
McCool had a long career and connections in Evansville. A native of the city, she graduated from Harrison High School in 1967 and attended Ball State University and the University of Evansville. Over the course of her career, McCool worked for Hahn Industries, WTVW, and WFIE as a graphic artist.
While Brightman plans to finish scanning and uploading pictures of all the paintings currently in storage, he says his real goal is for his mother’s heart and drive to be remembered as much as her art — something she would have been shy about.
“I think she would smile and say something funny and flippant like, ‘What are they looking at my stuff for,’” he says. “She is proof that despite the pain humans endure, we can choose to stay present and remain kind, respectful, gracious, and hospitable.”