Sculptures by blind, autistic artist Cindy Gosselin are acutely affecting representations of emotion from a reality without visual information. “Fish Collage” by artist Peter Tsokas, who does not speak and is autistic, broadcasts an immediate experiential sensation of an underwater world conveyed to the viewer via a powerful imagination. Both artists are included in Outsider 1 at Bluestone Fine Arts Gallery. The exhibit showcases artists studying at the Center for Creative Works in Wynnewood, a school for developmentally disabled adult artists. The students’ exuberant and unique visual works range from colorful portrayals to abstract and complicated expressions of moments, sensations and stories.
For their teachers, this work is no different than that of any other artists, said Studio Supervisor Morris Burns. “Artists without disabilities second-guess everything we do, while people with disabilities don’t have those inhibitions — they don’t second-guess anything,” Burns told me in a phone interview after the show’s opening.
“Every artist is at a different level — not just in technique, but in their maturity,” Burns explained. “Some people are really infatuated with cartoons, they can do more but they choose to draw that. Some people are really into abstract art. It’s a choice and it’s their personality.”
Burns said that the school does not want viewers to make a determination about the validity or merit of their students’ works based on their intellectual or physical handicaps. But the unique consciousness of a developmentally disabled adult is undeniably a fascinating lens through which their artistic work differs from many of the art-world’s norms.
Gosselin, for example, makes naturalistic statues that almost resemble human organs, which are tightly restrained on all sides by string. But Burns said that Gosselin loves bagpipe music and thinks of her sculptures as bagpipes that she’s making.
Some of the more immediately powerful works bring the viewer into a sensational experience of color and light, while simultaneously exploring the narrative of the moment and the consciousness perceiving that moment, such as “Grocery Store” (above) and “Bobby and the School Bus” (below).
Tsokas has been developing his abstract work for over a year. He works in pastels, depicting abstract eye movements with rapid movement drawing, or slowing down for texture-based works like “Fish Collage” (below), Burns said.
“We don’t control what people do or paint. We just help them with getting the materials and then guide them,” Burns said of his students.
“We don’t ever tell them when something’s complete. They tell us,” Burns said.
Bluestone Gallery is open Monday to Satuday, 10 to 6 pm, and Sunday 12 to 4 pm. Outsider 1 will be up through September 29.