Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies

A Vibrant Autistic Aesthetic and the Limits of Art Brut

Journal of Literary & Cultural Disability Studies (2017), 11, (2), 113–131.

Abstract

The article proposes that paintings by Jessica Park and Seth Chwast share an aesthetic. Like work by other autist artists, many of their pieces are precise and pattern-focused; yet, both artists present familiar scenes using bold colors that may appear non-representational. This strategy may seem to affiliate them with the category of art brut, but Chwast’s and Park’s paintings explicitly reject this label—often assigned to art by autists—by demonstrating an intimate connection to each artist’s environment. In the process, their work exposes the instability of distinctions between reality and illusion, thereby contradicting outdated yet persistent beliefs about autism. These paintings call into question the use of autism as part of art brut’s theoretical frame, suggesting that the category needs to be substantially revised or retired as one response to the persistence of outdated attitudes toward autists, particularly in France.

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Author details

Barber-Stetson, Claire