Brain Pickings

Children and Established Artists Draw Autism

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What the spectrum of difference has to do with 12th-century demons and Google Earth.

Autism is one of the greatest modern mysteries of cognitive science, a highly faceted condition that remains largely misunderstood. We’ve previously explored several notable autistic outliers — British savant Stephen Wiltshire, who draws remarkable 3D panoramas of cities from memory; animal scientist Temple Grandin, who is equally well-known for her innovations in livestock herding and her autism advocacy; and autistic savant Daniel Tammet, who was able to learn Icelandic in a week, among other remarkable feats of memory. But what is the actual experience of living with autism in a deep felt sense, beyond the social stereotypes and headline-worthy superskills?

Drawing Autism, a celebration of the artistry and self-expression found in artwork by people diagnosed with autism, explores just that.

The stunning volume, with an introduction by Grandin herself, features works by more 50 international contributors, from children to established artists, that illustrate the rich multiplicity of the condition — which we hesitate to call a “disorder” as we subscribe to the different, not lesser view of autism — and the subjective experience of each autistic individual. Thanks to Will of 50 Watts for the wonderful images.

Felix: Imaginary City Map, Age 11

Who are some artists that you like?

None. I study road maps and atlases in detail and generally I scroll the full track of our trips on Google Earth.

Eleni Michael, Dancing with the Dog, 1995

Josh Peddle, Changing Seasons, 2006 (at age 12)

Vehdas Rangan: A. (India)

David Barth, Vogels (Dutch for 'birds'), 2008 (at age 10)

Emily L. Williams, Leap Years

Wil C. Kerner, Pals (collage), age 12

Wil’s grandmother explains:

The key in understanding Pals is the brown rimmed off-white donkey ear. Four facial expressions depict the bad boys turning into donkeys in the movie Pinocchio: purple-faced Pinocchio is stunned by his new ear and considering what to do; it’s too late for the horrified yellow face; the green trapezoid is oblivious to his pending fate; the blue head is looking away hoping he’s not included.”

Eric Chen, Mirror Mind poster 3, 2005

Jessica Park: The Mark Twain House with the Diamond Eclipse and Venus, 1999

Drawing Autism comes from Mark Batty Publisher — one of our favorite independent voices at the intersection of visual art and thoughtful cultural commentary, whom you may recall from The Unruly Alphabet, Drainspotting, Pioneers of Spanish Graphic Design, and Noma Bar’s fantastic Negative Space illustrations.

Images via 50 Watts

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