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How a self-taught autistic artist mines creativity from life’s endless variations

The Seattle-based artist Gregory Blackstock’s career in ‘world famous artistry’, as he puts it, was a most welcome development, even as it came quite late in life. Living as an autistic person before the condition was widely understood, Blackstock had difficulty in school, where he was subject to corporal punishment, and he spent much of his adult life on the edge of poverty, working a menial, low-paying job. However, when Blackstock’s cousin Dorothy Frisch sent some of the hundreds of drawings he had crafted for his own enjoyment – often depictions of variations on a single item of interest, including vegetables, animals and household objects – to a gallery, she helped him forge a way to make a living from the unique talents that, for decades, he had kept mostly to himself. Directed by the Seattle animator and filmmaker Drew Christie, The Great World of Gregory Blackstock borrows from its subject’s distinctive drawing style to bring his story to animated life. In doing so, Christie also touches on the complexities of art commodification, especially as it pertains to ‘outsider’ artists, as well as which varieties of intelligence society tends to reward, and which it tends to overlook.

14 October 2021

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