Artist Maria Huppi. After becoming a quadriplegic in 2000, she learned the process of painting using a mouthstick. ##Photo provided


Local mouth-painter dips into wine

By Sophia McDonald

Maria Huppi’s paintings of wine depict familiar scenes: barrel rooms, a full glass at the Oregon Coast, red wine pouring into glasses. There’s even a bottle with a message of hope: “Look for the good,” a reminder everyone needed to hear amid the chaos of 2020.  

That affirmation is one Huppi often repeats to herself. In 2000, she and her husband were in an accident leaving both with broken necks. Though her husband eventually recovered, Huppi permanently lost the use of her arms and legs. “I spent three months in the hospital, and then we had to start our life over,” she recalls.

“Red Wine and Barrels,” oil painting on canvas paper. ##Image provided

As she adjusted to life in a wheelchair, her mother, also an artist, suggested Huppi try painting with her mouth. She had done some in therapy and found it a positive distraction from the nerve pain. “Before the accident, I was an avid gardener and loved flowers, so I wanted to paint my own flowers,” Huppi says.

She started with paint-by-numbers to get a feel for how to use a mouth stick as a paintbrush. Accepted to the Association of Mouth & Foot Painting Artists, she received a scholarship to help pay for private lessons with Hillsboro artist Nancy Quiaoit, plus funds for informative DVDs and other materials. Quiaoit eventually helped her join Washington County Open Studios tours, where local artists can showcase their work and meet members of the public. She’s also joined similar events in Portland.

Using acrylics and oils, Huppi first painted flowers. Subsequently, she began painting other aspects of her backyard: hummingbirds and the koi gliding through her pond. She’s always trying new subjects, which is what eventually led her to painting wine.

“Wine at the Beach,” oil painting on canvas. ##Image provided

Huppi comes from a large family — she has seven siblings — that enjoys getting together, often with bottles of wine in tow. Their meetings were abruptly cut off when the pandemic began. “Being home and just reflecting on different things, I wanted to get into a different topic,” she says. “I was looking at pictures of previous gatherings, where everyone was getting their wine glass with their little charms on them, and thinking about how they were always fun.”

One of those photos, taken by her nephew, shows a wine glass held aloft in front of the Pacific Ocean. Huppi rendered that scene in paint and finished four other wine-themed pieces. Her sister, who lives in Newport, showed photos of the paintings to an organizer of the Newport Seafood and Wine Festival, who invited Huppi to participate in the event. She donated a painting to the live auction and sold wrapped canvases, greeting cards and note cards featuring images of her work.

Huppi may begin another series on wine at some point, or she may just move on to the next subject that brings joy to her life. “I always try to look at the glass as half full rather than half empty,” she says. “Are you going to get up or are you going to stay in bed? You have to keep going.”


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