Journey To Health
Local artist uses painting to heal
By Jessica Laskey
Anya Warda is a proud tree hugger.
“I love greenery, exercising, fresh air, sunshine, going outside and being with nature,” she says. “I’m a tree hugger. That’s who I am—that’s what my life experience has made me.”
Warda’s love of nature is more than aesthetic. She’s thankful to walk, much less hug a tree.
At age 26, the native of Poland was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, a debilitating autoimmune disorder that attacks the joints and makes them painful and swollen. Determined not to be in a wheelchair, she took matters into her own hands.
“I started searching online, even though I didn’t know what I was looking for,” says Warda, who emigrated to the U.S. with her family at 18 and studied at the University of the Arts in Philadelphia before moving to California in 2012.
“The very first website I found said our bodies are designed to heal themselves. I’d never really thought of that.”
Warda adopted a vegan lifestyle, started juicing and drank gallons of water in an effort to heal her body from the inside out. She walked, even though it made her cry. “If you don’t use it, you lose it,” she says.
Her symptoms gradually improved enough to allow her to return to one of her first loves, horseback riding. But it wasn’t until she completed a whole-body cleanse at a lifestyle center in Lodi that she could leave the painkillers behind and take back her life.
“The body is designed in such a beautiful way. Every cell is yearning to repair and rejuvenate if we let it,” she says. “I’m an example of that.”
The journey back to health inspired Warda to explore the experience in her artwork and use her artistic talent to help others on their own health journeys.
“Ever since having health problems and getting over that hump, I realized I can’t be the only one having these issues,” says Warda, whose artistry includes metalwork, woodworking and paintings of flowers, animals and produce. “I’ve been given the gift of art. I’m Christian, so I believe we’ve all been given some kind of gift. I don’t want to not use my gift. So why not use it to help others?”
Warda offers personalized art commissions to celebrate a client’s health journey. After hearing the client’s personal story, the Carmichael resident produces two or three design options to evoke that story. The client can select one and Warda will complete a unique painting that often incorporates color therapy, a method of using specific colors based on their healing properties.
There’s no obligation to buy. Warda encourages feedback so she can improve. “I want to see if people really find value in this,” she says.
While Warda dreams of the day she can make art full time, she knows it’s a process—just like her health. She still has ups and downs, especially when life gets stressful. Not long after she’d finally gotten her symptoms under control, her house burned down.
She lost everything, including her job, and ended up living in her car, on couches and in cheap motels for a year before landing back on her feet. During that time, her joint pain returned until she recommitted to taking care of herself.
Getting back on the health wagon allowed her to return to hiking, riding horses, making as much art as possible and learning to scuba dive.
“You have to have time to experience life to be truly alive,” she says. “Every cell in the body wants to be moving and happy. How can you do that if you don’t have health?”
For more information, visit anyawardaart.com.
Jessica Laskey can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: @insidesacramento.