“This possibility of art bursting forth from a child labeled as autistic might bring hope to the world. It might start with the moms of the autistic and spread out to the parents of struggling students, families with a sick child, people with aging parents, those wrestling with every kind of pain.” Debra Chwast
Debra Chwast, An Unexpected Life
The Art of Autism has asked Debra Chwast, managing mom to prolific and talented Seth to share a passage from her inspiring book “An Unexpected Life.” This detailed memoir, which includes a full-color portfolio of Seth’s art work, takes the reader on a journey into the personal lives of Debra and her son Seth. Not only will the reader be inspired by Seth and his art; they will be in awe of Debra’s devotion to her son and how her son’s autism influenced her life. Many people focus on early intervention and assume that people on the autism spectrum will not make progress after their teens. Seth, who was evaluated for a career in dry mopping at age twenty, has shown that no matter what a person’s functional level, if they tap into their passion, great strides can be made. Seth’s art has been featured in museums, gallery exhibits, and in books, periodicals, and on television shows. His art is featured on the cover of “The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions.”
The following passage is from pages 40-41 of Debra Chwast’s book “An Unexpected Life.”
“When he paints, Seth burns hot and fast, all the while humming and relaxing, smiling and looking lit it’s a day at the beach. It is so natural and so easy for him. I really didn’t understand how good he is. He burns, and I am the one to feed the fire. I am beginning to understand the magnitude of his fire. I stoke it two to eight hours a day. During that time, I schedule mentors, organize exhibitions, write about him, archive his work, and physically deal with over 550 paintings. I believe that I came to earth to do service. I love doing service for Seth. I am the most happy that I have ever been.
Seth wants to change the world. He Says, “Seth’s art will make people feel all better.” I am starting to understand that somehow Seth is a visionary, he is idealistic and loves humanity and symbols and speak to the world in ways I cannot express, but am starting to witness.
When I tell Seth that he will be famous, he gives his most special smile. He crows with joy. His eyes shine. He is thrilled with every fiber of his being. To Seth, famous means “make people happy.”
I do not think Seth is simply the poster man or the poster artist for the autistic. The autism was not vanquished and he did not transform. Whatever it is about him that caused people to dismiss him is still there. The art was probably always there, dormant, waiting for twenty years to be revealed. This time of waiting and incubation may be true for own child’s gifts or your gifts or my gifts. Seth’s victory is our victory. It is never too late. The problem becomes the gift. Seth’s in-your-face, unmistakable autism is recognized by the moms of the autistic in thirty seconds. They see the autism, and they see the art, and their hopes for their children change. This possibility of art bursting forth from a child labeled as autistic might bring hope to the world. It might start with the moms of the autistic and spread out to the parents of struggling students, families with a sick child, people with aging parents, those wrestling with every kind of pain. Seth went to Galapagos and made Spanish moms cry with joy. He crossed the equator and changed lives. In the words of Jimmy Durante, I am finally ready to say, “You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.”
Excerpt from Debra Chwast, An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son’s Story of LOVE, DETERMINATION, AUTISM, and ART, Sterling, New York, 2011, p. 40-41. Available on Amazon.
Seth’s website is www.sethchwastart.com. He has a very beautiful newsletter you can subscribe to at http://www.growyourbrainblog.blogspot.com.
Below is a gallery of Seth’s art and Debra and her book.