NPR aired a story this week about a new book out this week called The Electric Pencil. It’s a collection of 283 drawings by a man who lived, from age 17 onward, in a state hospital in Missouri. Edward Deeds, the artist, was committed to the institution after a turbulent childhood, and the researchers now believe he may have been autistic. Whatever his circumstance or diagnosis, he managed to create tremendous BEAUTY in an environment we know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, was not beautiful. (Not that America’s new version of mental health centers are any better–prison! Ahem.)
The interview with the man who helped publish the drawings is worth listening to, and I actually found the comment section on the piece to be a great discussion as well. What does it say about us when we appreciate, or even enjoy, art that’s been created by someone who suffered so much? Is that wrong? Or does it offer some redemption by honoring their story? NPR must have smarter commenters than the average site because it’s a relatively civil discourse that I enjoyed reading.
Hopefully you can find it at the library soon! Or it would definitely be a fascinating addition to a coffee table collection.
(P.S. These images are from Amazon and NPR.)