The Mind’s Eye
Alex Masket, an autistic 23-year-old artist, creates vivid, idiosyncratic collages to make sense of his world
©2009 AEM Creations LLC • Photos: ©2009 Dennis Connors Photography
To see more of Alex Masket’s art, visit utne.com/Masket.
Visual artists are often disinclined to talk about their work. In fact, many refuse even to try, claiming that the art should speak for itself. But what if discussing one’s work is virtually impossible for an artist? What if that artist can’t articulate why—or even by what means—he wanted to create it in the first place?
Such are the challenges faced by Alex Masket, a severely autistic 23-year-old who lives with his family in the suburbs of New York City. Alex is functionally nonverbal, but he has been fortunate enough to have a family willing to do everything in their power to help him find his voice in other ways. As crucial as this support has proven to be, it is ultimately Alex’s extraordinary artistic gifts—and his equally extraordinary force of will in wielding them—that have led to the works, built out of everything from Legos to duct tape, that are featured on the following pages.
Esopus editor Tod Lippy interviewed Alex’s parents, Elaine and Steve, to learn more about the young man behind this remarkable work.
When did it first become apparent to you that Alex was artistically inclined?
Elaine Masket: One of the first signs was after we bought one of those wooden Chinese checker sets with colorful pegs. We noticed that Alex would lay the pegs out next to the wall—lining them up, but not in a traditional way. They were in these very complicated color formations. Steve, who was much more aware of Alex’s talent early on than I was, would say, “It’s beautiful!” And all I could think was, “He’s lining up objects: Autism Symptom Number 6.” [She laughs.] All I knew was that wherever he went he needed something artsy to do; I didn’t take the time to figure out whether what he was doing actually was art. By the time he was 8 years old, though, both of us realized the intricate patterns he was making with Legos were very unusual.
Why do you think Alex gravitated toward Legos?
EM: The Legos were in the house already, just like duct tape. There was not a piece of tape in the house that we didn’t have to lock up. It didn’t matter if it was Band-Aids or Scotch tape or masking tape—even adhesive stamps.
What did he do with them?
EM: Alex stuck them on his wall, he stuck them on the floor—he covered everything. . . . It’s hard to imagine, but when Alex was young, he was not the Alex we know now—the one who is so beautifully behaved and socially comfortable. He was frequently completely out of control. He just could not make sense of the world, and he was a danger to himself. He constantly tried to leave the house—once we found him sitting in the middle of the street—so we had to live with a lot of locked doors. This was autism. It took him a long time to make sense of his environment, and I’m sure if any of us spent even one minute in his shoes it would be clear why it was so tough for him.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>