“I don’t feel any different. I’m a climber and an artist just like anyone else.”
The Short Version
I grew up in Cleveland, Ohio. My early teens were spent skateboarding and riding road BMX. As a sophomore, my friend suggested I get into climbing, and we went to a local rock gym. I was instantly drawn to the community. Then I had the accident a week before I graduated high school.
“This is going to be really different.”
I was once left-handed. What I thought was an M80 in my hand turned out to be a quarter stick of dynamite. It exploded on me mid-throw, destroying my left hand five days before my 19th birthday. After three surgeries, I still managed to graduate high school on time and went off to art school as a right-handed person.
“I’m still learning how my body works now.”
In my recovery and art, I started exploring different options. I gravitated towards graphic design, illustrations and custom lettering, and dabbled in graffiti, which ultimately catapulted me into art. I attended the Art Institute of Chicago, and transferred to fine art and large-scale paintings at the School of Visual Arts in Chicago.
At Skidmore College, I did some climbing, but I really didn’t know what was possible. In Chicago, I reached out to Ronnie Dickson, another amputee, who said, “Yes, you can still climb as an amputee.” I started climbing again in New York City, three years ago now. I’m still not where I was in my ability to climb the same grades. Climbing became the same as art. I powered through my limitations and constantly compare myself to what I once was.
“I’m interested in what is beneath the surface of a person. With everyone, there is a masking. I like to break that down to the pure essence of that person in my artwork.”
When I let go of worry, I can draw with my right hand freely. My illustrations tend to have some natural climbing theme to them. The colors in my work are inspired by nature. I use a lot of deep blues or earth tones in a limited palette.
“When I let go of my worries, it just flows.”
I’m mainly a boulder or sport climber, and I still sequence routes like I have both hands. I have to think outside the box and use more footwork now. I’m so focused on my residual limb not popping off the hold it’s resting on, it’s a challenge to focus on the next move. When I’m relaxed, I can flow through things more than I ever thought I would be able to. It’s constant problem solving.
“I was able to overcome an unfortunate situation with the love of people in the outdoor and art community.”
Both the artistic and climbing community, which to me are very similar, helped me find myself and heal after a life-changing event. The type of people the communities attract are non-judgmental. When I’m out climbing, I don’t feel any different from my partners.
“I find the outdoors healing. It’s a place where a rock is not going to judge you. You can be free.”
Personally and athletically, my goals are long-term and ongoing. I aim to be the first arm amputee to boulder V10. I’m a climber and artist for life, and I don’t limit my goals to a set amount of time.
Jon’s website can be found at jonsedor.com.
This article was originally published in RANGE Magazine Issue Four.
Artwork by Jon Sedor. Photos by Tana Pierro, Will Strathmann and Eric Gifford.