"Look At Me"

"Look At Me"
monotype and screenprint

Friday, March 25, 2011

"Heads or Tails"

Technically, this piece is not part of the Autism Art Project. But I am posting it anyway. I made this piece as a part of my thesis show in Tulsa, OK (May 2003). I was at the critical stage in life where a woman has to choose between having a career and having children. I remember, at the show opening, someone telling me, "You know, you don't have to choose between the two. You can have both." The moment she said that, I got chills. It was as if, somehow, I knew that my role as a mother was not going to be easy. I had started filling out applications to teach at universities back in January. Then, out of NOWHERE, I put them aside. I knew it wasn't the right time. That June, I found out I was pregnant with Tyler. Maybe someday I will have both...maybe I can be a mom and have a career. But I know I will never teach at a university. My goals have changed. Things that used to seem important aren't anymore. What is it they say? "If you want to hear God laugh, tell him your plans."

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

"Brothers: The Unspoken Bond"

monoprint (mixed media) March 2011

Autism has affected my oldest son more than anyone else in our family. I wanted to include him in this next piece. He has had to deal with so much more than most kids his age. First, he watched his mom literally fall apart. Then he had to deal with his own feelings of jealousy, anger, and frustration towards his brother. Tyler wants so much for Derek to be able to talk to him and play with him, and he asks me about it all the time. He doesn't understand why his brother is different. I wish Tyler could see how much Derek loves him, and how much he has helped Derek. I pray that I am raising Tyler right, and that having a younger brother with a disability will make him a compassionate, caring young man...rather than a resentful, bitter one.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Derek's Autism Journey: Year 1 of Progress (the video)

Derek was first recognized as showing enough symptoms of autism to "qualify for early intervention" on July 15, 2009. (He was officially diagnosed in December.) That hot July day was the day my world shattered. I had watched my son disappear. I had known for many months that he was autistic. I needed no formal diagnosis. Suddenly all the dreams I had for my son went out the window. All the plans I had for my own future were put on hold indefinitely. Everything revolved around Derek.

The video above is the short and sweet version of the nightmare I went through that first year. I made the video to commemorate Derek's 1st year of progress, and to remind myself years down the road just how far my son has come.

"Look At Me"

"You've got to follow your passion.  You've got to figure out what it is you love--who you really are.  And have the courage to do that.  I believe that the only courage anybody ever needs is the courage to follow your own dream."   --Oprah Winfrey

This is the first piece in the Autism Art Project.  It is a combination of a monotype (the middle) and a screenprint (the flower border).  It is titled "Look At Me."  I completed it in October 2009...three months after Derek was diagnosed.  The writing you can see in the background is basically babble.  I was in pain and I was telling the world how devastated I was.  I couldn't even get Derek to look at me at this point in time--I wanted my son back.  As you can see, Derek is beautiful.  :)

What the Project is About!

The Autism Art Project Begins
March 19, 2011

"Never let the odds keep you from doing what you know in your heart you were meant to do."
~ H. Jackson Brown, Jr

Well, here goes nothing.  I'm about to embark on the scariest journey of my life.  I could succeed as an artist, or I could fail.  But I figure I might as well try...

My 3 year old son Derek is autistic.  He is in therapy 25-30 hours a week.  My husband and I hired someone trained in ABA (applied behavior analysis) and four college students to come to our house 7 days a week and teach Derek every day skills and how to communicate.  He has come a LONG way in the past year.  He is now potty trained, has better eye-contact, and can even say a few words...just to name a few of the things he has learned.  Anyway, all of our spare money goes to therapy.  It is worth every penny.

I am an artist.  A printmaker, to be exact.  I make monotypes, etchings and screenprints and then sew them all together.  I can get some pretty neat effects by layering things that are nearly IMPOSSIBLE to get by painting or drawing.  That's why I love printmaking. But we have no money.  In the very near future, I'm going to put something on a website called kickstarter to see if people will help me raise money...I don't have the art materials I need to continue. I'm praying for a miracle. 

The Autism Art Project has been floating around in my mind for over a year now.  I have two pieces completed already.  I don't just want to do pieces about my son, I want to tell other kids' stories as well.  Most children with autism can't communicate very well.  Some can't speak at all.  I want to be their voice; tell their story.  My first goal is to have a gallery show (more than one, if possible!!) I would also like to tell Derek's story at autism conferences and eventually publish an illustrated book.  I think this idea could go far and reach a lot of people.  The numbers are growing and this project has the potential to raise a lot of autism awareness.  More than that, however, it will help to connect families who are feeling alone and don't know who to turn to for help. When Derek first started going downhill, I had no idea where I was supposed to go for help. I knew that early intervention was key, but it was surprisingly hard to find. I live in a small town. As far as I know, Derek is the only autistic child that lives here. I feel very, very alone sometimes.

That is what this is all about. To tell Derek's story and other kids' stories and to bring hope to others on this journey. Wish me luck!