I had something completely different in mind to write about this month. In fact the entry was almost complete and needed just a little bit of tweaking before posting it “live” on this site. Since I was blessed/cursed with a creative spirit and mind, my thoughts and energies can be easily distracted by shiny objects but occasionally a really interesting story. Just ask my wife.
On a recent family trip to one of my art shows, our evening hours were spent hanging out with an albino Burmese python rather than the more traditional family meal at a local grazing establishment. Thankfully Daylight Savings Time ended just a few short hours ago giving me extra time to mull over a gleaming fascinating article found on CNN/Time ’s website this morning.
Echolia: A Father’s Photographic Conversation with his Autistic Son took several excerpts from Timothy Archibald’s recent book Echolilia: Sometimes I Wonder. The book attempts to document how a father and son use photography to bridge the gap between each other’s understanding of the world around us. In essence each photograph is a conversation between Timothy and his son, Eli. This is not unlike my journey with my son Ben using acrylic paints to communicate our experiences with one another.
It is quite obvious why this story would jump out at me. Another exceptional father who happens to be an artist offers his talent to his non-typical child as a form of expressing himself; something I myself am quite familiar with. Along the way a form of communication and trust is developed – something that is not that surprising but most definitely welcomed. But that is not the end result. Essentially the art itself offers not just those involved with its creation but the rest of the world a glimpse into the worldview of a non-typical individual. Ultimately we all learn something new about ourselves and our connectivity with other folks around us.
Ben digests information much differently than most folks. That was made very clear to us almost from the very beginning of his arrival into our family. The process is slow, tedious, and many times very challenging. Our son doesn’t give us typical responses that would tell us what he desires, what he likes or dislikes, or even what he’s thinking. Many times it’s a process of elimination to gain the information we need to react to his particular behavior. This can be incredibly frustrating particularly when we know that Ben is sick or in pain but cannot quickly tell us how we should respond to his discomfort. Even though it’s the down side of things we do know there is a process.
I suspect that the Archibalds’ artistic journey and ours are very similar. Much like a child learning to ride a bike the parent dictates the parameters in the very beginning. This is very much appropriate since we are handing our kids tools albeit not dangerous ones that a carpenter might pass on to an apprentice. Our kids must learn how to properly handle those tools and eventually understand how to use them to express their own art. In Ben’s case I now rarely dictate what he should paint, how he should paint it, or even what colors he should paint with. It was through this form of education, our education, which those of us who deal with our son on a daily basis understood that Ben does have the ability to process the universe around him and can actually express commentary about it! Isn’t that just like the rest of us?
The cool part of this discovery is that Ben and essentially ALL non-typical children have a common worldview that most of the rest of don’t have. They have the purest form of connectivity with other humans. They have the purest form of love, of peace, of forgiveness, of faith, of giving than any other individual on the planet. They are not biased based upon the color of their skin, their parents’ teachings, their religious beliefs, or their political party’s leanings.
It is said that art imitates life. In this case wouldn’t it be great if life imitated art?
Bennie and Ben love to talk about art and other really cool ways to connect with friends at A Work of Art: Raising Our Exceptional Son.