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Email|Print| Text size + By Diane Daniel
September 5, 2004

WHAT: The artwork of Fred Siwak, 52, of Ipswich

WHERE: 48 countries and counting

WHEN: Ongoing from last October

WHY: Siwak's own journeys are virtual, while his artwork does the traveling. He is an artist who has amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, which has left him paralyzed. To raise awareness of the disease and to stay connected with the world, Siwak started a project to get a piece of his art photographed in every country in the world.

HOW IT STARTED: ''With ALS you get so trapped," Siwak said. ''Your mind is alert and thinks of all these things to do but you can't do them. It's a really bad disease. I wondered, how can I keep myself occupied and engaged? And it's a way of staying connected." Because Siwak enjoys traveling and creating art, he came up with the idea of having others photograph his artwork in faraway places. ''I really want to do every country," he said.

ART BY MOUSE: Siwak, who uses a wheelchair and has a breathing device, can operate a mouse to make computer-generated art. ''I have quite a few images, like butterflies. I have a drawing program that simulates pencils or pastels. I try to make it so it doesn't look like a computer."

FINDING FRIENDS: He types by using a mouth-held device. ''It's a lot of work to type a paragraph or two," he said. Although he has traveling friends who have helped him, he also sends his appeal worldwide over the Internet. ''It's a one-on-one effort on my part," he said. ''I search the Internet. I'll pick a country and might, for example, look for an artist or photographer. I have a standard e-mail I send out explaining what I'm doing, and I wait to hear back." In his e-mail, Siwak asks that the photo of his artwork be taken outside ''with some distinguishable features." He asks for the name of the place where the picture was taken and encourages helpers to send along any information on the area they wish to include.

HIS COLLECTION SO FAR: His first e-mail went to a group of African artists. ''I got several people from there." One was from Mauritius, an island country 500 miles east of Madagascar. Since then, he has added such sites as the Pyramids in Egypt, the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean, and soon, Mount Everest in Nepal. ''And I got the South Pole, the actual South Pole. This guy, a scientist, enlarged my art, printed it out, and placed it at the bottom of the pole. Oh my God, I don't believe this, I thought. I have somebody who will do Victoria Falls in Zambia, the largest falls in the world. I got one from the southern desert of Iran, way out in the middle of nowhere -- and there's my butterfly. It's really isolated, and you see a little slice of the world. It's not like a slick travel picture."

MAKING FRIENDS: ''People are very kind about it and enthusiastic to help me out," Siwak said. ''There's a woman in Somalia and an artist in New Zealand who put me on their Web page, and a guy in Leningrad who put my art in a museum. I'm so appreciative of people's cooperation and support. It's pretty amazing. You jump from North Korea to Niger to Patagonia to Iceland and all these people say, 'Yeah, I'll do it for you.' It's an extremely encouraging feeling given my circumstances."

JOINING THE PROJECT: Siwak welcomes all travelers and citizens worldwide who would like to help. To contact him or receive his introductory e-mail, write Siwak at seaweed@gis.net.

To see other reader vacation snapshots, visit www.boston.com/wheretheywent. Send story suggestions to ddaniel@globe.com.

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