Tag Archives: art

When Plans Go Awry… Take Photos!

The kids are here…

Water Park

And Richard and I are not…

That’s right.  We are having a staycation!  Woot!  Woot!

Don’t misunderstand me, I think about the kids all the time.  I began to worry when we hadn’t heard from them in 10 hours, but being in New York City for two days to just do whatever we want, when we want, without worrying about anything other than what museum we should go to next or where we should eat dinner, while knowing the kids are having a blast…  Yeah.  It’s pretty fabulous!

We began with a trip to the Metropolitan museum, where we saw the George Bellows show, followed by the Matisse show and then we wandered through various other galleries, and saw this, from the artist, El Anatsui who lives in Nigeria, but was born in Ghana. I love this artist.  Look at how the fabric drapes and folds.  This piece is massive and covers most of an entire museum wall.

El Anatsui

After a few hours we headed back downtown where we roamed the East Village, ate at a terrific little restaurant called The Redhead where the cheese grits are fantastic, as was the buttermilk fried chicken.  Then off we strolled to the IFC Center  (Independent Film Channel) where we saw the Academy Award-Nominated Live Action Short Films.  There are some great ones, but my vote goes to the South African short film, Asad.

Yesterday we slept in and went to MOMA (Museum of Modern Art).  This wonderful sculpture is on 6th Avenue and 54th Street.

The Egg

For those of you unfamiliar with my jewelry, I’m including an image of an 18 Kt gold and Ceylon Sapphire ring I designed and made three years ago.  I think you’ll see why this sculpture speaks to me!


After MOMA we went back to the IFC to catch the Academy Award-Nominated Documentary Short Films and had dinner at another fabulous East Village restaurant, Back Forty.  If you find yourself there, you have to get the  freshly baked Parkerhouse rolls.  Amazing!

At 3:50AM this morning my cell phone rang, which I ignored and then the home phone rang, which can only signal trouble.  It was my security company calling that they were being notified of “unknown” activity at my studio and did I want the police called.  Yes, thank you very much, I would like the police called, I responded groggily and then threw on some clothes, grabbed my keys and grabbed a cab and went over to my studio (which is NOT in Manhattan).  I arrived just in time to see a police car slowly cruise past my studio building without stopping!  I ran upstairs, carrying…

wait for it…

yup, my camera!  Because I am never one to miss an opportunity to photograph something and you never know…

I know.  Not exactly a weapon, but I figured if anything was amiss, I could at least document it.  This was my thinking.  And I’d just like to remind everyone that it was FOUR IN THE MORNING!   Everything was dark and quiet and so after checking all the windows and door, I returned to the city.  But not one to miss an opportunity I hung out the window of the cab and got some crazy shots of the Chrysler Building as we drove over the 59th Street bridge.  The white light is the Chrysler Building.

The Chryslar Building

I was back home by 4:30AM and… wide awake.

But what an adventure!

A Self-Portrait and an Inspired Life

Upon returning home the other evening, we were told Emma had become dysregulated because her  favorite imax movie about the Hubble Space Telescope wouldn’t play.  This is the self-portrait she drew, unaided.

The note along with this self-portrait said:

“Emma is sad.  They want to turn it on.  Mommy, I need help turning on Hubble Imax theatre.”

This is the first “self-portrait” Emma has ever made for us.

Do you see the tears?  The eyes?  The downturned smile?  And then there are the Obama-like ears, which made me smile, and the hands!  God I love those hands that she drew, like rakes.  I stood in the kitchen staring at this drawing, this drawing drawn by my amazing little girl who was feeling so, so sad and I felt tears well up.  I felt that constriction in your throat that only comes when you are about to cry and I felt proud.  So, so proud of her for drawing this despite her sadness. My heart ached for her sadness and at the same time I felt awe.  Awe in Emma.  Awe in this world and all of it’s inhabitants and how little we really know or understand.  I felt humbled by the enormity of those feelings and by her.  My little girl.  My beautiful, expressive daughter.  My Emma.  This child that I have been so fortunate to have enter my life.  This child who has taught me to see beyond what I believe is real, to strive to understand what I cannot, to push past my fears, to be present in a way that I never knew was possible.  This child… this unique and stunning child.

It is yet another example of the incredible life I find myself inhabiting.  It is a life and world filled with beauty and appreciation.  It is an enviable life. An inspired life.  A life I would not trade for anyone’s.

To read my most recent Huffington Post, click ‘here.’

To read my guest post on Special Needs.com, click ‘here

Tolerance, Despair and Hope – Autism

A follower of this blog emailed me this morning about a new app for the ipad called, Pop It.  It’s a “book” that when one shakes the ipad, the perspective of the story changes.  The creator, an artist named Raghava, gave a talk on Ted.com, which is terrific – about perspective and tolerance of others and the role of art and creativity.  Listening to Raghava made me think of a book I am currently reading by the extremely talented and insightful theologian, James H. Cone.  His book – The Cross and the Lynching Tree is a deeply touching and powerful investigation of suffering and hope.  James Cone writes at length about the nature of faith, how God “could make a way out of no way”, how “hope could remain alive in the world of Jim Crow segregation.”

I do not claim to know of the existence, nor can I claim to know of the non-existence of a god.  I cannot even define that word.  It is not a word that holds any meaning for me.  But I do know what it is to struggle with hope.  Hope for Emma, hope for all our children who will grow up to become adults, who many will fear, ignore or just wish would go away.  Our children with autism are often misunderstood, in their inability to fall into line with societal norms they are in turn rejected by society.  The continued negligence and worse, abuse, of people with disabilities is rampant.  Their abuse is done by people who have deemed them incompetent, imbeciles and without value.  This is the common thread that exists in the abuse of all groups of people throughout history.  It is our intolerance of those we believe to be “less than” that makes us believe we have the “right” to punish, shun, ignore, hurt, torture and kill.

James Cone writes:  “The cross is a paradoxical religious symbol because it inverts the world’s value system with the news that hope comes by way of defeat, that suffering and death do not have the last word, that the last shall be first and the first last.”

When I was in my late teens I began using food as a way to quell anxiety and emotions I felt incapable of dealing with.  My overeating turned to full blown bulimia and the bulimia became a way of life – for 22 years.  I remember when I finally stopped, the idea of “surrender” seemed antithetical to all I had, up to that point, believed.  I thought that if I just had more will power I would be able to stop the destructive behavior.  I believed that the bulimia was something I could control.  I believed that my lack of control simply proved how despicable I was, which only served to fuel more of the same behavior.  It wasn’t until I took a leap of faith – really took in that I was, in fact, out of control, that I received a respite from the behavior.  Early in my “recovery” from bulimia someone said to me, “don’t you think that if you could have controlled the bulimia, you would have by now?  Isn’t it true that in fact you have tried to control it all these years and this is where that control has gotten you?”  With a great deal of support from others who had eating disorders and had come out the other side, was I finally able to find a way out from under it.  In surrendering to the fact that I was unable to control it, was I finally able to find freedom from it.

I’m all over the map with this post, but perhaps some of these thoughts will prove helpful to someone else or if not at least encourage thought and conversation.

For more on Emma and our journey through her childhood of autism, go to:   www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma and Art – Part 2

As promised, I arrived home yesterday evening and found the art bin in Emma’s room.  After brushing off the dust I pulled it out into the living room.  “Hey Em.  Look!  Let’s make something together!” I gestured at the pop beads, the wooden beads, the string, the glitter, paint and brushes.

“No, no, no, no, no!”  Emma said, casting an eye at the art supplies before returning to the vigorous twirling of her velcro strip.

“Oh come on!  Look at these things.  These look great.  Let’s make something with these,” I said, digging into the bin and producing a bag filled with brightly colored wooden beads.

“No, no, no, no, no!  Mommy go away!  Go away!”  she said, whipping her plastic strip around so that it made crackling noises.

I sat there looking at the bin and then at her.  “Are you sure?” I asked.

“Mommy no!  Go away!   Go away!   Go away!”  she said very quickly so the words all slurred into each other.

“Go away!” is new for Emma.  She says this either when she is going into the bathroom, a very good sign in my opinion, or when she is doing something she thinks we might object to.  That she was now using these same words to indicate displeasure with a suggestion seemed like an advancement as well.  This is a child who just months ago might have bitten her arm or hand or punched herself in the face to express her dislike of an idea.  I was relieved to hear her say – Go away!   And while it might not be considered the most polite response to someone who is trying to engage in an activity with her, it’s certainly a step up from self injurious behavior.  We parents of autistic children take what we can get.

An old familiar feeling of determination crept into my thinking, as I sat on the floor with the art bin before me.  Right, I thought, we need better art supplies.  Wooden beads and pop beads just weren’t going to do it.  As I considered what sorts of things to look for, it occurred to me that I have a great many things at my studio which I will never use.  Drilled gemstones I bought years ago when I first began designing jewelry, glass beads, cooper and brass wire, as well as lots of silk thread in dozens of beautiful colors.   I have a wide assortment of origami paper, leftover from the year I became obsessed with paper folding while pregnant with my son, Nic.  We have glitter, paint, construction paper, tissue paper, scraps of hand pressed paper, pipe cleaners, all the things one might need to make a wide variety of art projects.

“Okay, Em.  Don’t worry.  We can make something together another time,” I said, dragging the bin back into her room.

Emma followed me.  She bent her head down so that it was about an inch away from mine and said, “Play – Don’t say Mommy?”

“Don’t say Mommy” is a chase game where Emma and sometimes her brother Nic will come very close and say, “Don’t (two second pause)  say  (two second pause)  Mommy! (shouted)” and then they run screaming through the house while I chase them.  This game usually involves lots of doors being slammed and beds being torn apart as they burrow under sheets and blankets.  A variation on this game is – don’t say Daddy!  When we catch up to them, we walk very, very slowly giving them plenty of time to hide and ruin whatever bedroom they’ve sought refuge in, we tear the blankets off them while saying in a loud voice, “AHHHHHHH!  There you are!  I found you!” followed by villinous sounding laughter and tickling until they cry for mercy.  This game can go on for a very long time, so we have found, for the sake of ourselves and our neighbors, it’s important to put limits on it.

“Okay, but just two games and then we have to get into PJ’s and brush teeth.”

Emma stared at me intently with a little grin on her face and a wild look in her eyes, “Okay, okay.  Don’t… say… Mommy!” and off she went like a shot, her feet thumping against the floor as she disappeared into our bedroom.

Art will have to wait one more day.

Emma’s art project brought home from school.

What makes these significant is the detail, the number of “bracelets” she made and the fine motor skills required to make them.  For any neuro-typical preschooler, these would be commonplace, but for Emma these bracelets show a marked improvement in her finger dexterity, concentration and focus, not to mention the sheer artistry. (Okay I’m totally biased, but they are pretty fabulous!)

For more on Emma’s continuing journey through a childhood of autism go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma and Art

This morning we had our parent/teacher conference with Emma’s team of teachers and therapists.  I am rarely told anything that completely catches me off guard at these meetings.  But this morning when her teachers related to us how Emma loves doing craft projects, I must admit I was astonished.

“Did you see the bracelets she made?  We sent them home in her backpack,” one of her teachers asked.

“Yes,” I said.  “But I assumed someone helped her with them.”

“No, no!  She did those all by herself,” I was told.

To say I was ecstatic is an understatement.  When I was pregnant with Emma I dreamed of the day when she would be old enough for me to teach her to knit, sew, embroider, do art projects, just as my mother had done with me.  Some of my favorite childhood memories are of my mother and I knitting, sewing, embroidering the figures for the nativity scene we made together one christmas that we still display on the mantle above my mother’s fireplace each December.  But up until now, Emma showed little if any interest in art projects, her fine motor skills are one of her biggest challenges, so my hopes of one day doing these things with her were pushed aside for the more pressing issues of helping her learn to read and write.

I am always looking for things Emma and I can do together.  Things that do not include her favorite outings – which can be very rigid and exacting – the Central Park Zoo, the American History Museum and the Central Park Carousel.  These are regulated outings with specific things that must be done in a particular order, “go see snake bite boy” in the museum, “go see bats” at the zoo.  One day, frustrated with Emma’s desire to ride the carousel over and over again I decided to just continue riding it to see how long she would do so before she asked to leave.  It took almost an hour and more than a dozen rides before she said, “All done.”  I was so dizzy I thought I was going to throw up and the next day she wanted to go back and do it all over again.

Emma has always shown an incredible memory for music, will hear a song once and then months later will hum or sing the entire song without missing a note.  I assumed, until now, that Emma’s artistic leanings were contained in her musical abilities. But every now and again I have wondered whether Emma might find some other medium with which to express herself since both her parents are artistic as is her Granma (she’ll deny this, but she is a terrific artist who did pencil sketches of us when we went on trips together that were amazing) and her great-grandmother was extremely artistic as well.  It definitely runs in the family, so to hear that Emma is deriving pleasure from her art projects at school is terrific.

Emma at school using her feet to paint.

We have a bin filled with art supplies buried somewhere in Emma’s closet at home.  When I get home this evening I will pull it out.

For more on Emma’s artistic leanings and her journey through a childhood of autism go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma’s photographs

About six months ago Emma discovered the camera feature on my iphone.  Since then she’s taken hundreds of photographs, many are of the floor and curtains, which I’ve deleted, as well as self-portraits with weird lighting.  But my favorites – the pictures of her surroundings as she is running, dancing, jumping give the photographs a surreal, slightly hallucinogenic, ethereal quality to them.

Self Portrait

Our living room as viewed by Emma

Emma – Self Portrait

I could go on about her “artistic vision,” what they seem to represent, how they appear to reflect her interior life etc.  But I don’t know how accurate any of my ideas really are and for Emma any thoughts I have on her photographic endeavors are meaningless.  She just likes to take photographs.  Interestingly, she has begun to take fewer photos of herself and her surroundings and more photos of the people who are around her at home – us.  Our much-coddled cat, Merlin remains sadly out of the loop however, as she has yet to photograph him.  Even so, I cannot help but feel this is positive as it indicates a growing awareness and interest in others.

When Emma was a toddler she had piles of photographs she would carry around with her.  If one went missing she knew within seconds and would become increasingly agitated until she was utterly inconsolable.  The only remedy was to recover the missing photograph.  If we couldn’t find it, her upset often went on for several hours.  The missing photograph seemed to represent so much more to her than we could understand.  Although I have come to view her disconsolation as more of an obsessive-compulsion than the shattering of her world, but to her it is probably the same thing.

As Emma’s interest in being behind the camera increases, her desire to look at piles of photographs has lessened. Which is something else I see as a positive change.

Even though Em didn’t take this photograph of Merlin – one day she might – and it’s important for him to feel included.  Notice the distended claw piercing the fabric on our couch.  Richard is inwardly cringing as he views this photograph.

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism go to:  EmmasHopeBook.com

Emma Painting – Some Additional Thoughts

What struck me as I watched Emma paint the other day was how she has placing the colors on the paper.  She was not simply dipping her brush into the paint as it was placed on her palette.  She was looking at the colors then very methodically placing them on the paper in a specific way.  In the beginning with a slash of color near the middle of the paper, she then added another slash nearby.  As I watched she continued with a streak of color on one side fanning out from the middle.  She did not simply alternate colors – first one side then the other, but seemed to consider where the next color would go.   None of this was done in a perseverative way.  What struck me was how non-perseverative the process was.  She seemed to study her choices of both color and their placement before putting brush to paper.

This morning I said, “Hey Em!  Want to paint?”

“No thank you,” she said as she shot by me on her scooter.

“Hey Nic!  Want to paint something?” I asked.

“No. I’m good, Mom,” came his reply.

Emma Paints

About a week ago I bought some acrylic paints and brushes with the hope  Nic and Emma would feel motivated to paint.  Upon seeing the art supplies Nic said, “Ooh, ooh!  I want to paint something!”

So we set up the easel with new paper and unwrapped all the brushes and paints.  Emma stood nearby and watched.

When Nic was finished painting a particularly gruesome monster – his specialty, Emma said, “Mommy!  Can I have a turn to the paint?”

“Absolutely Em.  Here let me get you a fresh piece of paper.”

I showed Emma how to hold the palette in one hand with the paintbrush in the other and then stood back and watched.  It was fascinating.  She was very careful, methodical even, considered her choices before putting brush to paper.  This series of photographs show in chronological order her “process”.  The whole piece took about twenty to twenty five minutes to complete with neither Nic nor I saying a word.

Emma begins

The Final Touch