M.I.N.D. Institute Shares Expressive Art Collection Through New Book

Released: 12/22/2003 8:20 AM EST
Source Newsroom: University of California, Davis, Health System
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Newswise — The walls of the UC Davis M.I.N.D. (Medical Investigation of Neurodevelopmental Disorders) Institute are graced with art created by children and adults with autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders -- the same disorders that are the subject of medical research under way at the institute. To give others a better understanding and appreciation for the unique talents of individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders, the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute is sharing this very special art collection with the release of a book titled, "Art of the M.I.N.D." The book captures the talents of these creative artists of all ages, from throughout the world and is now available to the general public.

The book's 56-piece art collection includes pencil drawings, watercolors, and oil paintings created by 36 artists ranging in age from 5 to 86 years old and includes short feature stories on each artist, composed with the assistance of the artists and their families. The majority of the selected artists have autism or Asperger's syndrome, a higher functioning form of autism. Some of the artists have learning disabilities, including severe dyslexia, and a few have been identified as being in the rare category of autistic savants. These individuals demonstrate an exceptional level of skill and understanding in a particular area -- in this case, art.

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute's staff launched an international competition for artwork from children, adolescents and adults with autism and related disorders. Two artists from the Sacramento-area, Wayne Thiebaud and Karen Fenley, along with the UC Davis Medical Center art advisor, Susan Willoughby, and one of the founding fathers of the M.I.N.D. Institute, Chuck Gardner, collaborated to select the entries.

"Art is a beautiful form of communication and for many individuals with autism who live in utter isolation from the rest of the world, it is one of the few ways they are able to be brilliantly expressive," said Chuck Gardner, one of the founding fathers of the M.I.N.D. Institute and the parent of an autistic son named Chas. "One of my favorite pieces of the collection is Reed Feshbach's depiction of getting a haircut, something that used to be traumatic for my son. Two of the prominent details in the piece, a buzzing bee and an exit sign, remind me of how much Chas wanted to escape from the situation."

Another artist with autism, Christophe Pillault from France, is a severely disabled artist who is unable to talk, walk, feed himself or even control the muscles in his fingers, so he cannot hold a paintbrush. However, his desire to create is so strong that he improvises - he applies paint to the canvas directly with his hands and signs the work on the reverse with a fingerprint. More amazing stories like Christophe's can be found in this book.

Inspired by five Sacramento-area families wanting to help their children live full lives, the UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute brings together parents, educators, community members, physicians and scientists in fields as diverse as molecular genetics and clinical pediatrics, once separated by invisible barriers but all passionate in their quest to find answers. The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute offers families with children who have neurodevelopmental disorders renewed hope in unraveling the mystery surrounding Autism Spectrum Disorders, fragile X syndrome, learning disorders, mental retardation and other neurodevelopmental disorders.

"Art can be a transitional object, something that bridges our inner experience with the outside world and in doing so provides connection, understanding and soothing," said Dr. Robert Hendren, executive director, UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute. "The art collection inspires those of us working here to connect research with humanity, to find new understandings of and treatments for neurodevelopmental disorders, and to ultimately find cures."

"Art of the M.I.N.D." can be purchased for $30 (plus tax and shipping) by phone at 916-703-0336, or by downloading an order form online at http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/html/events/books.html.

The UC Davis M.I.N.D. Institute, in Sacramento, Calif., was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary organization of parents, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers to study and treat autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders. More information about the institute is available on the Web at http://www.ucdmc.ucdavis.edu/mindinstitute/.


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