I've been searching for the visual language to express my frustration with labels and branding. While there are times I feel like a puzzle to myself, I don't think a puzzle piece is an accurate symbol for all that I am. Now, I can see how I'm seen as enigmatic by allistic family and friends who perceive autistics as fragmented pieces to some grander, larger picture that needs to be put together in order to make sense. To me, this looks like what “autism awareness” might mean to an allistic person. In actuality, I'm so many interconnected and interlinked things--some of them paradoxical--that I could never be likened to a puzzle piece.
I am more like the infinity symbol-- I have specialized interests and abilities, my passion and love for which infuses my body and mind with vitality. These hold limitless depth and breadth. My imagination, my mind is endless, and in fact, there is no beginning to any of it either. My physical, mental experiences and self perception form a unified identity which loops back around into itself. Thusly, my neurology is a complete and fluid circuit, it is balanced in its own proportions-- not a wayward, clearly-defined-by-its-broken-shape puzzle piece.
So anyway, this picture goes into the derogatory yet widely-accepted, fixed and rigid image of what it means to be a person "with autism" from a generic and trite perspective. The puzzle piece as I chose to draw it, is a coffin lined with all those autism-associated stereotypes that are for many of us, weights upon our identities, obscuring our perception of ourselves. The lifeless figure of a five year old child inside the yellow puzzle piece is the same color as the puzzle piece, and is rendered in black outline with its arms folded across its chest, eyes closed, presenting as though it's laid to rest in a coffin. The colorful figure in the right side of the picture grasps hold of the hand of the ghost-like self emerging from the dead autistic child, pulling it out of the withered shell of past perception, and signifies me finally "coming into my own" as a self-aware autistic adult. This is what “autism awareness” means to me.
It took from 1987 to 2017 to achieve self love and self acceptance as an autistic. But, it is better late than never, and as long as I am breathing, it is never too late. This artwork is all about me liberating my autistic youth through the act of acceptance.
If what I've expressed interests or resonates with you, and you'd like to read my poetry and see more artwork which is an extension of this, I urge you to check out the Swimming With Elephants Publications website under my monthly feature for March, 2017. I briefly discuss my creative goals for this year in the introduction, and conclude with a excerpt from my graphic novel.
I’m an autistic writer, philosopher, artist, spouse, and parent who home-educates my three neurodiverse children. I’ve taken up blogging and begun to express my thoughts and feelings about autism, mental health, gender, chronic pain, chronic illness, disability, and civil rights in visuals and writing. My calling is to not only give my children the best of myself so they can grow up to be confident, caring, and empowered adults, but to be an artist advocate and story teller, flowering forth work that represents and/or supports the diversity of life experiences of those of us in the IDD community. Along my journey, I hope to reach other Autistic parents with my blog, "Freeing My Heart: An Autistic Parent & More"