I feel Gleeful! I am in the Plain Dealer! I will be famous! I am an artist. There is an article about me. I feel proud.
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Seth Chwast and his mother, Debra, on art and autism: 10 Minutes With ...
Published: Sunday, May 20, 2012, 1:54 PM Updated: Monday, May 21, 2012, 2:19 PM
Seth Chwast (pronounced KWAST) was born to Debra Chwast 29 years ago. Doctors told her that Seth, born with autism, would probably be limited to pushing a broom for a living. Today he is an accomplished painter who has sold his work all over the world. Debra of Cleveland Heights published a memoir last year called "An Unexpected Life: A Mother and Son's Story of Love, Determination, Autism and Art." Seth and Debra spoke withPDQ's Michael Heaton
How often do you paint?
Seth: I paint from 10 to 5 every day.
What's the biggest painting you've ever done?
Seth: I did a very big painting. I did "Manhattan Floating." It is 11 feet high and 26 feet wide. It is 104 small paintings. It is my first big painting.
Was writing your book a form of therapy for you?
Debra: Writing my book was more than therapeutic. It was a way of combining my emotional, spiritual and intellectual outlooks in a cohesive manner. [That] led to the joy and appreciation of unexpected life experiences and a deep understanding that Seth's autistic diagnosis was the beginning, not the end, of that journey. This journey has enabled Seth and I to live a beautiful life and touch other people with the hope of a beautiful life.
Did the book put you in contact with other parents of autistic kids?
Debra: We do hear from other parents. Because it took Seth such a long time to find his voice, he is an icon of hope for other families. To quote a woman who responded to our talk in Dartmouth: "I am 87. Nothing surprises me. I was a teacher. With your book, I could have changed the world."
How many paintings have you sold?
Seth: Sixty-four of my paintings live all over the world.
Debra: Seth does not think of selling his paintings. He thinks of them going to new families.
Tell me some of the places around the world where people can see your work.
Seth: I had exhibitions in the Galapagos Islands, the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands, the Museum of Modern Art of the Ukraine, Landhuis Bloemhof in Curacao, the United Nations, the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center, the Cleveland Clinic, Penn State College of Medicine, University Hospitals of Case Western Reserve and Cleveland Museum of Natural History.
Is it ever hard to let go of a painting?
Seth: I like my paintings to go all over the world. I like to go visit my paintings.
When did you first begin to paint?
Seth: I did my first painting in 2003.
What is your painting schedule like?
Seth: When I am home, I paint every weekday. I do not paint when we travel.
Your email address is email@example.com. What does that mean?
Seth: Painting helps grow your brain.
How long does it take you to do a painting?
Seth: I do not know.
Debra: Seth's time frame is not counted in days or weeks or months. It is counted in "I started, I finished." However, if you tell him the day and year you were born, he can tell you what day of the week it was.
What is your life like with Seth?
Debra: I did everything I could to bring Seth into our world. Now I try to enter his world. His is a world of joy and bliss, color and beauty, authenticity and clarity. Seth lives in the moment. He loves life. He is my teacher. I would tell parents to never give up and to find ways to enjoy their child.
Do you have any theories on the cause of autism?
Debra: Esoterically, I believe autism is a blessing of the universe. In the real world of science and fact, I have no idea where autism comes from.
What are your current plans for the future?
Seth: We will go to Boston; New York; Portland, Ore.; Austin, Texas; and Little Cayman in the Caribbean Sea. I want to go to Australia and New Zealand.
Do you have a favorite destination?
Seth: I want to go to any place that has steak, fries and orange juice.
Debra: Every time we travel, Seth's art explodes. We have a rhythm of times when he takes in the world, followed by times of coming home and painting his new visions. We do have an unexpected life, and it is difficult and it is wonderful.
How can people contact Seth?
Debra: Seth loves making new friends. Please visit us on his website, and Facebook page.