Entries in Autism (6)


Upcoming Exhibitions

The Album Project will open at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown on June 9, 2013. The reception is from 1 -3 PM on that day. Would love to see both the art and autism community there. The Butler is a wonderful institution and I am very happy that we have the opportunity to tell this story.

Next up are two showings of Every I Have Ever Lived - the foreclosure crisis in twelve neighborhoods. The first is at the Campbell Gallery at the Levin College of Urban Affairs of Cleveland State University opening on September 3, 2013. Next it will be shown at the gallery at Wilmington College in Wilmington OH opening on January 23, 2014.

I also have pieces from my current project, Lustron Stories in some current group juried exhibitions.Clementine, the original owner is now hanging in the Minneapolis Photo Center's Home exhibition and is included in the Butler Institute of American Art's Mid-Year Show. Also in Home is Richard the Collector. Lustron Homes are all steel prefabricated homes manufactured in Columbus OH between 1947 and 1950. In 1950, everyone's story was the same. Now the people and the stories are a cross-sectioon of what has become to Great American Dream. Another piece from the series, Kansas City Community College is currently hanging in the Artist's Archive of the Western Reserve annual member's exhibiton. Another print of this same piece photographer's:network 2013 opening on June 28, 2013. Thomas Kellner, the organizer of this very generous undertaking, has said this is last of these exhibits organized this way.

There is more (Precious Objects in Las Vegas in January) but we'll cut this off for now. Rule #6 - enough is enough (thank you Calvin Trillin.)



Please bear with me on this post as it ties together a lot of stuff. At least it attempts to do so. 

The Music Settlement had their performance party for the Music Therapy program last week. Isaac did Bach's Prelude in C, something he and his therapist have been working on for a long time.  Isaac, though he has  perfect pitch and does reasonably well keeping rhythm tends to play notes on the piano sequentially without a lot of concern with how long he is supposed to hold them.  This gets to one of the fundamental differences in how he sees the world. Proportion does not mean much; everything is discrete. His therapist used the Prelude to teach about arpeggio, broken chords. Instead of playing all of the notes of a chord at the same they are played evenly one after another.  The listener still understands the chord. This was was a brilliant invention at the time. You can almost see it as a photograph in reverse. In a photograph, we take many moments in time and condense them into a single instance (at least some photographs do.)  While there is a lot of beautiful music, when it contains both beauty and invention it is very special. Bach is rightly considered a genius. This is where Isaac's perfect pitch helps him. Since he hears the chord more "perfectly" than we mortals it helps nudge him into playing more evenly than a more complexly structured series of notes.
Why does Isaac struggle playing things for duration  written if he knows the symbols and understands all the components?  I do not believe that Isaac perceives the continuous passage of time as we do. Rather he sees it as discrete events on many axes.  One axis is holidays. For example, his birthdays. His 37th birthday is one from his his 36th birthday, two from his 35th, three from his 34th, etc. Another is days.  June ninth is one after the eight, two after the seventh and so on.  Times Sylvester tried to eat the Tweety bird when Isaac and dad were watching TV on Saturday morning.  Everything is catalogued in his head this way and he seems to forget none of it. it is sliced similarly to how physicists do space-time maps Courtesy of Nomad Office Architects. This was not the illustration that I was originally seeking but was so lovely......to show the effects of gravity. If you look at the pages in The Album Project, this is how he labels his events. Thanksgiving 1991Thanksgving 1998While he does not have the kind of language to confirm this, I absolutely believe that, in his mind, the seven difference between Thanksgiving 1991 and Thanksgiving 1998 and the seven difference between 1 PM today and 8 PM today is the same, seven. To us the difference between an hour and a year is huge.   To him it is the same.
My "bad parenting" example of this was a few years ago when I was supposed to be picking him up after his work day at the courthouse which is on the north end of the center of downtown Cleveland not far from the lake.  We were having one of our occasional freak snowstorms and the city was completely gridlocked. Sitting in traffic, looking at my watch, my blood pressure rising, surely the end was nigh. Finally, roughly 30 minutes late, I pull up. Standing there, encrusted in ice, he gets in the car. "Hi dad, how are you?"  Exactly the same greeting he gives me every time he gets in the car. I expect to be sent to horrible parent prison for a lifetime in the hotbox with a bevy of insurance salesmen and HE DOES NOT EVEN REALIZE I AM LATE.  There are advantages to different. To him, everything is still in order - Finish work at 3:30,  tinkle, wash your hands, pack your Square Rigger, put on your coat, take the elevator to the first floor, walk out the door, wait for dad, drive home with dad…..
Cannot leave the subject of discrete and continuous time without mentioning my other run-in this week. I proposed a project last week and suggested that it would probably would be on film but might be digital because there would be some situations where there was not enough light for film, film might be too labor intensive and film would be much more expensive (actually more than buying a very nice digital camera with enough left over for a new MacBook Pro and that new tripod I have been lusting after.)  Turns out the digital camera being considered comes in two models, one without an anti-aliasing filter. I will avoid yet another digression about how everything was invented at Bell Labs and that now they are gone we are probably doomed.

Suffice it to say, there are two very real ways to observe time, continuously and discretely.  The greatest minds of the past few hundred years have been pushing us back and forth over those boundaries. Bach did it. Newton did it.  Even my kid is doing it. Go figure.


A little scare reading today's Cleveland Plain Dealer

Those of us old enough to still enjoy the morning paper do not always find it enjoyable. Partly due to the ongoing decline of the thing and partly due to the nature of a newspaper, three pieces of bad news for every piece of good. So it was this morning when I came upon an article  about the Sight Center being forced to close their snack stands. Sight Center Article This follows yesterday's article about the state considering commercializing the rest stops on non-interstate highways. The core of the highway debate is about large national concessioniares replacing local off-highway truck stops, restaurants and other travelers' delights.  Overlooked is the fact that the current vending concession is run by the visually impaired and the facility maintenance is done by folks with developmental disabilities.  So, once again, people with differences are the invisible losers in the game.
But, the Sight Center also had a more personal concern. When we did the opening for The Album Project at 1point618Gallery in 2009, there was a mob of people. In addition to the art folks and the normal family and friends, we had people from the autism community and from Isaac's job. As I was walking around meeting people, I ran into Marty and his wife. Marty runs the snack shop in the County Courthouse. At the time, Isaac (The Album Project is about him for those that are new to my work) worked at the Law Library Association which is housed at the Courthouse.  Isaac's afternoon snack is very, very important.  He would go down every day and buy a can of diet pop and some chocolate thing.  Isaac and Marty were buddies.
I do the usual, thank Marty and his wife for coming,etc. He turns in the direction of the gallery, spreads his arms and says, "This is wonderful."
Marty is blind.
Turns out that the Courthouse is not one of the Sight Center sites that are closing.
I am crying...


Respect, part II

While not wanting to be morbid, it has been an unusual two weeks. Birthday yesterday (is there anyone else that thinks the happy birthdays on Facebook almost make the whole thing worthwhile?), three funerals and the 18th anniversary of my dad's funeral.  My dad was buried on the coldest day in the history of Cleveland.  His drafting set from East Tech was my "Precious Object".

The memorial last Saturday was from a colleague from my first career.  Howard was a couple years younger than my dad, both part of the generation that served in the World War II. I have no idea whether Howard had a college degree but people like him and my dad who worked hard could create a comfortable middle class life - own a home, send their kids to college, retire if they wanted.

The memorial a week ago Sunday was for my friend Rabbi Bruce Abrams.  Bruce officiated at my dad's funeral. He was a few months my junior. His parents and younger brother were (are) remarkably like mine in many, many ways. His brother is a contemporary of my brother. (If he is reading this, I have to note that Bruce's brother still has hair.) What got me off my butt to write this was cleaning my studio yesterday and      finding comfirmation class photos I had done twenty years ago which included Bruce.  My son's confirmation was among them.  At the time, quite the accomplishment for a young man with autism. To be sure, quite an accomplishment for his rabbi as well.

In the end, this ends up a tribute to a friend and to a generation.  As I have said before, every time I revisit the people of my dad's generation that participated in "Precious Objects" I am doubly grateful. Grateful as I am for all the people that participated from five year old Sean to those in their nineties. But grateful again for the optimism and seriousness that the previous generation brought forth. They were not without faults. Equally they brought some ideas, at worst worth recognising and, at best worth preserving.


If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck....

Sorry for the obscure title. Recently I saw an exhbition that seemingly had everything. Graphically beautiful, impeccably executed, sound conceptual basis. I met the photographer who is clearly respectful of the people photographed and has gone to extreme lengths to execute the work.  I should have swooned. But I didn't.  Well I did but, was bugged about it.  No matter how much I knew better, I could not get out of my head that I was looking at a butterfly collection. The work even had Latin series titles. We will not say who this is because the point is not a criticism of the work. Frankly, it is admirable work. The question is why did it still bother me and, is it important that it did.

There was a similar problem with The Album Project. I shrugged it off as the viewers not taking the time to get past their superficial impression and to learn why things were the way they were.  I was asked (more than once) why he was cut out?  I stole the idea of the blank backgrounds after seeing Jeffrey Milstein's terrific images of the bottoms of jumbo jets. One of the points of The Album Project is how Isaac's emotional state seems to come from nowhere. He has great difficulty telling you why is happy or, conversely, why he is upset.  Removing the background was intended to show the difficulty of being with him, he gets upset, and you have no idea why. One person asked why it looked like product photography. That had never occurred to me. But,  the comment is not unlike me thinking "butterfly collection."

One reviewer took the time to dig into my other work and into autism and completely "got" the project. Another reviewer was troubled by not being able to see the father/son relationship in the work. He wanted context.

Which brings me back to the initial question. If a group of portraits (the work at the beginning) looks like butterflies on pins, has the artist made a mistake? If a group of portraits (The Album Project) looks like the latest wrenches in the Sears Catalog?