Art from Injury: Ocean Agate by Theresa Amelia

Theresa Hillsdon and Ocean Agate

The brain is a mysterious thing.

After suffering a concussion, Theresa Amelia turned to art for healing, depicting the shapes that she saw in her mind after her injury.

The result is the beautiful work pictured above – Ocean Agate – that now hangs in a home in Georgetown. It’s mixed media, weighing in at 45 pounds, and features glass and crushed gemstones that glitter in the light, including over 25,000 hand-set mosaic pieces of glass, 20,000 hand-set pieces of tumbled or raw gemstones (Brazilian Aquamarine, Lapis Lazuli, Green Agate, Blue Soapstone, and Green Bloodstone) and over 20,000 ml of poured, custom colored acrylic resin.

Theresa was not an artist before her traumatic brain injury. While she did have a visual sense, from her experience as a photographer, to develop the skills, focus and vision to produce a work of art like Ocean Agate is an almost unexplainable leap. She spent more than 240 hours in its creation.

The injury changed her, producing innumerable negative consequences (like memory loss) but a few positive changes, as precious and as rare as the stones used in Ocean Agate. In addition to her newfound artistic ability, she now empathizes with people in a way that she never had before, feeling what they feel just by looking at them. Maybe this is due to her realization of the fragility of our consciousness or maybe the injury unlocked a part of her brain that we no longer use, this kind of empathy unsuitable for our busy, complicated societies.

Art provides consolation and a way to work through difficult times. Art therapy is used to help veterans returning from combat – traumatic brain injury is a “signature injury” from our endless wars.

And in some cases, brain injuries can lead to extraordinary art.

Thankfully, I’ve never had a concussion. But I’ve seen friends after it’s happened. They are truly not themselves, not knowing where they are or their own name. Experiences like that teach you that our identities are thin and flimsy things, held together by a few membranes in our heads.

Author: Joe Flood

Joe Flood is a writer, photographer and web person from Washington, DC. The author of several novels, Joe won the City Paper Fiction Competition in 2020. In his free time, he enjoys wandering about the city taking photos.

3 thoughts on “Art from Injury: Ocean Agate by Theresa Amelia”

  1. Thank you so much for your kind words, Joe! Although recovering from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) after my 18.5 foot fall down a concrete staircase has been challenging, I feel more confident and positive than ever. I definitely AM more confident and focused than ever! While it’s true there are moments in my daily life that can be a struggle, I am choosing to create my future to be brighter, more successful, and even better than before my accident. I’m choosing joy, and living a more vibrant life!

    I hope through my art, and the story about how it is being created, more awareness will be brought to the everyday challenges of people who are living with TBI. There are a lot of us out here. I appreciate your support and friendship.

    I’m creating my artwork using just my first two names:

    Theresa + Amelia = Artist

    follow me on Instagram at

    1. Your story is inspiring and I’m so impressed by Ocean Agate. The amount of detail up close is amazing. I edited this post to change it to Theresa Amelia. Good luck!

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