Iris Aranda is originally from Panama. When she was born, her parents did not realize she was deaf. When they realized (after she did not communicate with them) that she had been born deaf, they set about to do everything in their power to create a normal life for her.

When Iris was six years old, she discovered that she could communicate through paint, and she started creating works of art to express her emotions. Recognizing that her paintings were remarkable, Iris’ parents sent her to an art class, but because she was the only deaf student there and could not communicate, the class was a struggle. To try to help with the communication issue, Iris’ mother sent her to a school for the deaf in Argentina. There they tried to teach her to speak, read lips, and to write to communicate, but Iris continued to prefer to communicate through her art. Oral sounds held no meaning for her because her art was her expression and her mode of communication, and art was all that really mattered to her then. Her mother worried that Iris, as an artist, would not find work and be able to support herself, so she encouraged her to focus on improving her communication. Ultimately, though, Iris’ communication through art won out, and back to art school she went, where she continued to develop her own personal style.

Iris majored in art, and graduated with a BA degree, and continued on to attain her Master’s degree. She began to sell her paintings in Panama, and then traveled a bit to market her work more effectively. While traveling in Bermuda, she began wondering how her art would be received in the United States, so she sent a few of her paintings to friends in California for display. Her work was so well-received there, that she was invited to work and show her art there.

Additionally, friends in Wisconsin, also great fans of her work, invited her to come to Wisconsin as well, and it wasn’t long before Iris was also visiting Wisconsin, and has remained there to this day.

Iris now communicates in Spanish, English, American Sign Language, and a bit of French, but her art continues to be her ultimate language. Art has helped her to find a voice to communicate to an extent that might never have been possible otherwise. Iris also has an interpreter who helps her communicate as she travels from place to place, showing and selling her art.

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