navigating social communication is a primary disability of autism

Fundamentally to me painting is an emotional, psychological activity—a language to express myself- the sensual perception of the world to me is the most poignant. I respond to images, particularly those that affect both thought and feeling. To me the most profound visual experiences are ones of sorrow, pain, and of loss. Often this pain is manifested in a physical sense—yet this loss can be viewed in a psychological sense as well.

The figure, specifically the portrait, has always been a vehicle of personal expression for me. In art school I was encouraged to study the language of painting. Much consideration was given to the formal properties in art...the shaping, the crafting of the form as it relates/defines the content.

Within my recent painting I portray a variety of children diagnosed with autism. My intention is quite literally to visualize what autism looks like, i.e. individualize or "put a face on it". There are many faces/ facets to the disorder and that is part of the puzzle in defining autism.

In studying portraiture, some of my favorite painters have been David Hockney and Marlene Dumas. Hockney’s portraiture to me is very human and sensitive yet clearly reveals an artist trained within the visual language of painting. I particularly respond to his formal use of color and shaping to express Hockney’s sentiments about the individual he is painting, usually someone with whom he has an emotional connection. My engagement with Dumas has been with her interest in documenting a world of beauty and pain. Many of her portraits portray individuals who are not the glamorous or beautiful people we are accustomed to seeing on television and in magazines. Like Dumas, my source material is generated from photographs I have taken. Having been immersed in the world of autism I have become aware of the duality that these children encounter daily: the trauma and splendor of life experiences.

As a parent of twins diagnosed with autism what has struck me most profoundly are the different manifestations of the autism spectrum disorder. How does one visualize/paint a social disorder that does not often show itself with clear physical attributes? How do these children "face their disability"? Living in a social world with a social deficit these children are "facing" a world that is often times painful, scary, and nonsensical to them, yet these children want to feel connected, understood and accepted by those who are socially adept. In my work I attempt to exhibit both the beauty and the fear of these children, who must struggle in our world on a daily basis.