The Mind’s Eye

Alex Masket, an autistic 23-year-old artist, creates vivid, idiosyncratic collages to make sense of his world


| May-June 2010


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.














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