I am an artist who happens to have autism. I love to create whether it's drawing, painting, clay, paper, found objects, sculpture, writing, acting or photography. I have recieved many honors and awards for my work. Several blue ribbons in a multiple of categories at the Minnesota State Fair, Gold, Silver and Honorable Mentions for the Minnesota Scholastic art and writing competition, National Scholastic Gold Medal for sculpture (2013) and photography (2017), VSA Emerging Young Artists - A Jean Kennedy Smith Arts and Disability Program (2016), and a 2018 Minnesota Jerome Foundation VSA Emerging Artist Grant Recipient.
I have autism, and I see the world very differently than most. I notice the smallest details that most people ignore and people tend to ignore me because I have a disability. One way I see myself existing in this world is by capturing my reflection in everyday scenarios. My work is reminiscent of twentieth-century street photographers like Lee Friedlander and Vivian Maier. I insert myself subtly yet deliberately in my images through shadow and reflection. Because my autism can be a barrier for me to relate to the “normal” world, when I capture my reflection in a window, the glass acts as a barrier to whatever is behind the window. In my artwork, the things behind the reflection are my representation of the ordinary world; I live in the glass, being caught in another plane that runs parallel to the world in which everyone else lives. By capturing my image in this “in-between” state, I’m re-inventing myself in a way that the outside world cannot ignore me anymore. By looking at my work, I am present in their world. Being present is what motivates me to create.
I also use a variety of inanimate objects to express how it feels to live with autism. An abandoned building can show a sense of loneliness or chaos, but there is also a sense of beauty, longevity, and resilience. Sometimes the world judges harshly on things. These objects have a history, knowledge, and beauty that only comes with time.
I’ve been photographing myself in my images for some time, and I’ve recently begun a new series of self-reflective work. I like inserting myself in my photographs as a way to depict my feelings about my autism, and I’ve recently begun experimenting with underwater photography. Sometimes, my autism can make me feel like I’m underwater, seeing the world through a distorted and out of focus lens.
I started by shooting myself with a mirror underwater. It took a while to get the right setup with the mirror and several pool sessions to start getting results. I also decided not to limit my shots to self-portraits, and I started shooting dreamlike images of others, which is new for me. One of the things that I take pride in is my ability to entirely create the images in the taking of the pictures and not in editing software after the fact.
There’s a learning curve to underwater photography, and I still have lots to explore. I want to bring in the neuro-typical viewers into my world.