As the saying goes, when God closes a door, he opens a window. The point for most people is just to find the windows. But for some, their windows are also locked, by physical disability or mental illness. Fortunately, a few of them managed to open the windows, and let the sunshine in.
A Genius with Autism
Stephen Wiltshire is probably one of the most famous autistic patient in the world. With a talent in drawing, he was awarded a MBE (Member of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his contribution in art area. Wiltshire is known for his amazing drawings of city views. He can draw and paint the picture of a city in great detail, even with a few glances only.
In December 2005, Wiltshire took a 20-minute long helicopter ride over the Victoria Harbour of Hong Kong. Then he spent 10 days to finish a work of the harbour and surrounding scenes. That piece is 10 metres long, and is one of his most famous work.
Wiltshire had done many similar projects before and after that, and cities in his paintings include London, Tokyo, Rome, and so on. As an autistic person, he has visited more places than most other people do, and his pencil has recorded more beauty than our camera do.
Disabled Artists all over the World
Apart from world-famous Stephan Wiltshire, there are many other disabled people who have great talent and achievement in art world.
In Singapore, there is an education institution called Pathlight School, which is for special education need students, especially those with autism. Seetoh Sheng Jie in Pathlight School loves making purses with different dinosaur patterns, and the school staff help him sell all these purses (view the video to know more about Sheng Jie). In an official visit to the White House, Ho Chine, the wife of Singapore’s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, took a mini blue dinosaur purse with her, which made the product gain popularity overnight.
The society nowadays is paying more attention to disabled people with special gifts. The Society for Disabled Artists (SODA) in UK is an organization that aim to bring disabled artists together. Those artists meet regularly so that they feel less isolated from the society. In China, there are also much media coverage of artists with physical disabilities, while the concern with mentally disabled groups is not sufficient yet.
They are not artists, but…
In a Hong Kong local charity event Love’s Team, there were booths of 15 different charity groups selling handcrafts. Among them, the booth of Hong Kong Society for the Blind (HKSB) is special in that many of the handcrafts there were made by blind people.
Cut colour paper into shreds, roll them up, and stick them to paperboard in certain patterns. For people with normal eyesight, it seems more than easy to make such works. But for people with visual impairment, they cannot see the materials so that they can only rely on touch. They have to feel the shape of the paper with their fingers, wipe the glue on their hands again and again, and find the right location to stick the paper rolls. And they will never know what their works look like.
“We hope to increase their self-esteem in this way,” said Gigi Au from HKSB. “We want to let them know, even blind people can produce something beautiful, something valuable.”
These people, with visual impairment, are not artists literally. They are not as talented or famous as Wiltshire and Seetoh Sheng Jie mentioned above. And they may spend their whole life depending on social welfare, staying in lower social class, without any significant achievement.
However, as Au said, they can still create beauty.
Disabled artists are adorable, but it’s not the only way for disabled people to realize their life value. Their windows are locked, and the only key is passion for life. No matter which building and which floor they are, as long as they open the windows, fresh air comes in.