Living Art

A life of love, art and an unbreakable will to survive.

Project type: Nonfiction Short
Project Status: Complete
Director/Writer/Producer: David Rochkind

Film Independent’s Fiscal Sponsorship program opens the door to nonprofit funding for independent filmmakers and media artists.



Living Art follows the life of Mara Clawson, a brilliant visual artist battling a life-threatening genetic disease. As she prepares for the largest gallery show of her young career, Mara shows us what it means to create a life inspired by love and kindness.


“I always like to be an artist, but my dream is to become a family I think. That’s it. Or to have a good life. That’s all. To have a good life.” – Mara Clawson

Everything seemed perfect for the first 10 hours of Mara’s life. Then, without warning, she was rushed in an ambulance to the pediatric intensive care unit. Mara’s unstable condition remained a mystery for much of her childhood – she was unable to walk or speak and suffered violent bouts of vomiting and trouble breathing.

Mara’s parents did everything they could to help. While Mara was struggling to communicate, and her family was fighting to understand her condition, Mara found great joy in drawing and painting. Clear stories and emotions began to explode out of her and onto paper. Art became Mara’s means of communication. Her art is stunning and recognized by galleries, collectors and museums.

Eventually, Mara received an accurate diagnosis. She was born with Familial Dysautonomia(FD), a rare genetic disease that damages her autonomic and sensory nervous systems. The disease is progressive and degenerative, and her family is unsure how long she will live.

Mara’s unique perspective is a key part of what makes her art remarkable. Her work deals with the central themes of her life: survival, family, home and loneliness. As Mara’s career begins to flourish, she continues to fight for survival. LIVING ART follows this remarkable young woman as she prepares for the opening of the biggest gallery show of her life.

Meet the Filmmaker

David Rochkind — Director/Writer/Producer
David Rochkind is the founder of Ground Media, a visual media production company based in Washington, DC that specializes in social impact storytelling. Rochkind began his career as an international photojournalist, covering stories around the world for organizations like The New York Times, Time Magazine and Rolling Stone. Among others, his work has been recognized by The Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting, The World Health Organization and the National Press Photographer’s Association. In 2013, Dewi Lewis Publishing released Rochkind’s first monograph, “Heavy Hand, Sunken Spirit”, which documents the costs and consequences of Mexico’s violent drug war. At Ground Media, Rochkind has produced films and directed campaigns for development and commercial clients, including Disney, Johnson & Johnson, CARE and The Global Fund Advocacy Network. LIVING ART is Rochkind’s directorial debut of a narrative documentary short.


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