Sunday, March 22, 2009

Artist with autism to have show at Endicott College

From the intro to the profile of Jessica Park in the Boston Globe:

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. - Much of what matters to Jessica Park (whose artwork is pictured) can be found in a small room on the second floor of a rambling old house in this western Massachusetts college town. The walls of Park's bedroom, which doubles as her art studio, are covered with posters of rainbows, lightning, Las Vegas, and astronomical phenomena: the constellations, galaxies, the moon. Perfume bottles and body creams, dozens of them, are lined up on a dresser. Trays of paints fill the shelves next to Park's drawing table, which holds a sketch for the artist's current commission, a painting of the Taj Mahal.

In a couple of months the architectural jewel will be rendered in Park's signature
style: each spire, minaret, balcony, and dome transformed with a meticulous hand and mysterious vision into a precise riot of color.

"I use acrylics. Sometimes come straight from the tube, but usually mix them up," Park says of her brilliant hues. "I like how they look!"

Park is autistic, and her room is a window on what she calls enthusiasms and others call obsessions. Her previous enthusiasms - the subjects of Park's early paintings - include radiators, dials, and heaters. In recent years, Park's artwork has been dominated by Victorian houses surrounded by weather anomalies and set against night skies made of "purplish black," her favorite color. The skies are invariably filled with stars, painstakingly depicted in their correct positions and dimensions.

It would be hard to overstate just how keenly, and to what powerful effect, Park's art is an extension of her autism. As a small child, largely uncommunicative, Park was fascinated by abstract shapes and color gradations. She is also a mathematics savant, able since she was young to create her own complex number systems. (It took a mathematician to recognize the seemingly random series Park wrote on a piece of paper when she was 12, which turned out to be the squares of the numbers from 51 to 100 arranged according to the number of powers of 2 they contain.) Order, as it is for many autistic people, became a driving force in Park's life.

And so it is in her artwork, a selection of which is now up at Endicott College in Beverly. The well-defined edges and controlled patterns of brick, stonework, clapboards, and shingles appeal to the 50-year-old artist, according to her mother, Clara Claiborne Park, a former English professor at Williams College and author of two highly-regarded books: 1967's "The Siege: A Family's Journey into the World of an Autistic Child" and 2001's "Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism."