Taytem Barth loves to draw. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News
Taytem Barth loves to draw. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Artist uses gift to connect with world

AIKEN – Defying the odds is one of Taytem Barth’s superpowers.

Born with primordial dwarfism, the 23-year-old childhood cancer survivor is a self-taught artist who wants to use her talents to inspire and help others.

Barth draws the fun creatures in her head as well as pet portraits from photographs, and she crafts jewelry.

“I like mixing things,” said Barth, whose whisper-like voice is the result of having a complete laryngeal reconstruction over the course of 43 surgeries in four years early in life. Although she was born at full term, she only weighed three pounds at birth. She couldn’t breathe and was placed in the NICU with a trach.

When she talks of mixing things in her art, she speaks of the animals she’s created. One might have pig-like features, and another might have random rabbit ears.

 “She loves Halloween,” said her mom, Julie Barth.

Scary movies are her favorites, Taytem Barth said, and she likes Freddy Krueger.

Taytem has been through a lot of scary things in her life.

Taytem Barth holds one of her drawings. Charmain Z. Brackett/Augusta Good News

Only a few months after the final surgery to reconstruct her throat, her father, Colin Barth, was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in 2007.

They were living in another state, and Julie Barth said the outpouring of love and support was overwhelming.

During his chemotherapy, Julie Barth chronicled both Taytem’s journey to that point as well as her husband’s on her BlackBerry. The result is a book she released in April called “Notes from a BlackBerry.”

“From the time I conceived, I was told she wasn’t going to make it,” Julie Barth said.

And once Taytem was born, medical professionals continued to give them diagnoses of things she’d never do – such as walk or climb stairs.

“Don’t ever tell Taytem, she can’t do something, or she’ll do it. She’s so stubborn; she will fight to the death, and she’s always right,” Julie Barth said.

Colin Barth died 16 months after his diagnosis, and Taytem took it the hardest of the four Barth children, Julie Barth said.

When Taytem was 13, roughhousing with her brother ended up in a hematoma that revealed dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, which is a rare form of soft-tissue cancer. The only course of treatment is surgery. It would take six surgeries before all the cancer, along with skin, muscle and bone, was removed. She underwent skin grafts from her legs as well.

Because of her medical conditions, Taytem is unable to work outside the home. Her art and her jewelry-making are her avocation.

 “This is her way of connecting to people outside of the house and in the world,” said Julie Barth. “This is what she was meant to do, and she loves it.”

Julie Barth said they are in the process of establishing a non-profit called Hope4Tayt to help people going through tough times. It’s a way of giving back.

“I hope someone will feel like it’s always going to get better,” said Taytem Barth.

Charmain Z. Brackett, the publisher of Augusta Good News and Inspiring: Women of Augusta, has covered Augusta’s news for more than 35 years and is a Georgia Press Association award winner. Reach her at charmain@augustagoodnews.com. Sign up for the newsletter here.

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One response to “Artist uses gift to connect with world”

  1. Gail Baker says:

    Love this story. She and her mother are inspirational.