Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Our Picasso's Art Exhibition

 "I close my eyes in order to see," said Paul Gaugin, the French Impressionist painter. Sometimes preconceived opinions and judgments need to be just closed, erased--making them completely disappear--never again to lift their ugly, monster heads. As a mother with a child with autism, I have to constantly check and monitor myself. Are there any biases I need to reconstruct or change as I try to view my son with more clarity and light?  Can he do more than I am think he can? Am I "opening my sky" and perspective--so he can "open his sky"?

My dear friend, Annagreth Bailey, who has a daughter with Down's Syndrome expresses it best: "I catch myself sometimes thinking that she can't do something, but then I have to tell myself, of course, she CAN!" She then continues, "As a mother, I have to work on that. I can only imagine how others limit her after looking at her.... I admit, it is hard work; it is so much easier to say 'you poor little thing,' and then sit back and please them at every corner.  It takes a lot of effort and dedication to help them reach their potential."

When Elias's art teacher asked early in the year if he could meet with him once a week after school for an hour, I never would have imagined the affect it would have on my son. His teacher wrote to me about his enthusiasm for Elias's work,"I am officially blown away by Elias's compete immersion in the moment and uninhibited creativity. He could really do something with his approach to abstraction, and who knows what else? Today in class he was calmer and more self-reliant than I have ever seen him." His art teacher sees exactly the way Gaugin described; Mr. Deerman closes his eyes so that he can see better visions of what his paintings and students can become. Now Elias also imagines himself as an artist who can produce beautiful paintings. There are people who even want to buy some of them.

Going to see Elias's exhibition at the museum

After a few months, Elias was asked with six other students at his school to display his paintings in an exhibition here in Doha at the Arab Modern Museum of Art.
 Last weekend we went to the student exhibition (which was ironically named Looking In) at the museum where many children were celebrated from different schools around Doha, Qatar. To see all of their bright eyes and lit up countenances was worth the trip alone. Being able to creatively express oneself is one of life's most stirring joys. It makes us feel more alive, more connected with the world.

I take Gaugin's admonition very seriously of "closing our eyes in order to see" or "looking in," the name of the exhibition this year. I know because my blind father-in-law lived with us for almost seven years. After being blinded at age 22 a few weeks after D-Day in France, he said at the end of his life (almost 70 years in darkness), "I might not have sight, but I have insight." He would then smile, with that characteristic twinkle in his glass eyes, and I knew he really saw me--maybe not the color of my eyes or hair. But he saw me and everybody else he knew.

Therefore, I too will close my eyes more frequently to really see and "look in"--to the person, the process, the view in front of me. Having a child with autism is like a window, I tell people. He has helped me to wash my windows more frequently so that I can view others with more clarity and compassion. Who would have ever known he would be featured in an art exhibition, let alone in Doha, Qatar? Sometimes we all just need to close our eyes so we can imagine and see things as they really are--casting away all those labels and assessments most everyone automatically presumes. Go make the world more beautiful, Elias!

This is what Elias said about the preparation of his paintings, "When I was making the prints,  I was pressing the design hard with my fingers. I wanted to make something beautiful. I saw cold and warm colors mixed together. Some of the colors were spicy, like Indian food."

This is summary of what he saw in his print, "There were mountains and a forest. It was like a world map. with green grass and brown trees--even a desert, some snow, and an ocean. It reminded me of the Mississippi River where I used to go boating and see the cliffs. It looks like when you look down from an airplane, and see the world. I felt like I was THE best painter ever."

The invitation for the art exhibition

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