Saturday, 9 January 2010
Since I'm stranded at the moment with a broken foot and sprained ankle, I've been thinking a lot about the autism & art workshops that I'll be helping tutor on this year. I'll be getting together with the wonderful Amelia who writes http://101birdtales.blogspot.com about her creative life. Pop over and have a look!
I 've found an interesting new book called Drawing Autism, by Jill Mullen which compiles the work of over fifty artists with autism. I like it because it doesn't concentrate on the artistic savants, like Stephen Wiltshire, who is well-known for producing amazing citiscapes but rather on unknown artists, whose work reflects their autism in some way.
There's lots of good stuff here. But one piece that I found particularly impressive was Rachel Mark's Metaphorical Maze. It is a clever visual representation of how hard it is for autistic people to understand non-literal language. For instance, Lyla nearly got upset the other day when I said her sister was 'crying her eyes out'. This was because she thought that her sister Mya's eyeballs would literally fall out if she cried. This is not because of a deficit in intelligence. It is because her autistic brain takes language at total face value. Another instance is if I ask Lyla 'Can you get your bag?', she will reply 'Yes' and do nothing. This is not awkwardness, she is answering that yes she can get her bag, not understanding that the question implies that she takes action. Instead I would need to ask her, 'Can you get your bag?' and then she would understand. I have constantly check my language to make sure it's clear and concise: too much language is hard to understand for autistic people and cause a great deal of stress. For Lyla, this often means challenging behaviour.
Another piece that I found very beautiful was Marliyn Cosmo's Strung Fairy. She says 'fairies are not quite of this world which I relate to'. I found this interesting as it echoes Professor Uta Frith's theory in her book Autism: Understanding the Enigma that autistic children were historically viewed as changelings or faery-children due to their ethereal beauty. There is often something faraway in the autistic gaze, simply because many autistic people find making eye contact so hard.
There's lots here to inspire. Hopefully we'll also have lots of wonderful artworks to share from our workshop soon!