As an artist on the Autism Spectrum, I have learned to embrace my neurodiversity as well as my talent, and even to celebrate them. However, I’ve also come to recognize that the very thing that these things, that make me who I am, and give me my ability to create unique works of art are also the source of my biggest frustration.
First the positive. One of the things Autism has given me is laser focus, the laser focus that has allowed me to study the great masters, to spend thousands of hours honing my craft and creating my own style, the drive to constantly innovate and improve my expression. It’s also given me a unique way of looking at the world that translated through paint are “pure Carl”.
Now for the not so positive. I’ve been painting for over twenty years, and for most of them, I either didn’t know, or kept quiet about being Autistic. Once diagnosed, I kept quiet for fear of not being taken seriously in the so-called art world. It turns out that fear was somewhat justified, just not quite in the way I thought. Let me explain; of course, once I began to openly embrace my Autism as part of my identity, I have been met with the standard, “we’re not sure your work fits within our mandate” response which really is a polite way of saying what they can’t say, “we’re not sure you can act appropriately in our super Upper crust gallery environment and as such, we can’t risk offending our patrons.”
That one, I’ve come to terms with. I don’t like it, but I have come to accept that some people will always be judgmental and narrow-minded. The one that gets me is the initial acceptance, then the subsequent rejection because I’m, get this… wait for it…I either “don’t look Autistic” or “I’m not Autistic enough.” That, I wasn’t ready for. This comes, usually from admittedly well-meaning people who, for some reason or another have a grave misconception about what Autism is and looks like and find themselves disappointed when I don’t meet the image in their mind’s eye. It’s a strange place to be, smack in the middle of public stereotypes, I’m either too Autistic or not nearly Autist enough, but what I am is, just like my art, 100% Pure Carl, so I guess I’ll just let the world, art and wider, fit itself around me and not the other way around.