Highlands Alumna’s Art Receives Acclaim in Publications

April 24, 2020

photo of Dawnique Savala

Dawnique Savala

Las Vegas, New Mexico – Artist Dawnique Savala, an alumna of New Mexico Highlands University, has received international recognition for her work.

Savala, who suffers chronic pain due to several rare illnesses, has had her artwork featured in publications such as Pain-Free Living in January 2019 and Art Quench Magazine’s Best International Creatives 2016.

“My work is about creating healing within myself,” said Savala, who earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree from Highlands in 2014 with an emphasis in painting. “I create mixed media art. My mediums of choice are pen and watercolors on paper. I use pen because it is permanent and harsh like my diseases. The watercolors are bright and soft because these diseases have also brought positive life lessons. My art is my therapy.”

Beginning in 2013, Savala was diagnosed with a number of rare chronic illnesses.

“For example, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, one of my conditions, affects the collagen in my body, which is basically the glue that holds everything together. This causes a lot of problems with my joints dislocating. My life revolves around specialists, therapy, hospital stays and surgeries,” Savala said.

She suffers from a list of other illnesses, including postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, pulmonary hypertension, gastroparesis, rheumatoid arthritis and Raynaud’s syndrome.

“The symptoms that affect me the most are chronic pain in my joints and stomach, instability in my joints, fainting and immune suppression due to medications,” Savala said.

Savala has had brushes with death that have also given her post traumatic stress syndrome, or PTSD.

“In 2019, I survived acute respiratory failure and severe pulmonary embolism, with blood clots in both my lungs,” Savala said.

Savala said that despite the numerous health challenges and resulting disability, she wouldn’t change a thing.

“My illnesses have made me into a better person and have helped me see that I can overcome anything. My art helps me cope with everything I deal with,” Savala said.

Savala’s work was accepted permanently in the PAIN Exhibit, and online art gallery for artists that live with chronic pain. Her work is also in permanent collections such as the fine art print collection at Highlands University.

Art has been an important part of Savala’s life for as long as she can remember.

“I’ve drawn since I was a kid growing up in Logan, New Mexico. It was something I always did. But I didn’t decide I wanted to become an artist until I was in my early 20s,” said Savala, who is 35.

As an art student at Highlands, Savala said she drew the most inspiration from Highlands fine arts professor Todd Christensen.

“Todd is incredibly talented. I learned a lot from him, growing as an artist who would take risks,” Savala said. One memory is especially vivid.

“I injured my right hand and I’m right-handed. I was frustrated and worried about how I was going to finish the semester. I was in Mixed Media Arts class and Todd placed a piece of paper in front of me and told me, ‘Draw with your left hand. Don’t worry about what it looks like. Just draw.’ At first it was scribbles and you couldn’t really tell what it was. But I continued and was able to finish that semester drawing and painting with my left hand. That always stuck with me,” Savala said.

Savala’s art can be seen on Instagram at artbydawnique or on Facebook at Artbydawnique.