Q&A with poet, artist, writer Hilary Krzywkowski - she draws vibrant, self-empowering and healing images

"The socio-cultural implications must be seen firsthand in this inexhaustible collection of work, in the messages of our artists. You won’t see narrow themes; you’ll see bursts of color, a wide spectrum of shadow, a deep ocean of nuance and symbolism."

Hilary Krzywkowski: The Art of Healing

Hilary Krzywkowski Flexer is a Cleveland Heights, OH, writer, philosopher, artist, spouse, and parent who home-educates their three neurodivergent children. Hilary has taken up blogging and begun to express their feelings about their autism in visuals and writing. They hope to reach other Autistic parents with their blog, Healing Hilary’s Heart: A Facebook Parent With Autism. Hilary says: My art involves both personal and freelance projects ranging in themes from life with disability and civil rights to cross-cultural studies and education. My most enjoyable work is with illustration and creative projects which engage community.                         Hilary (Self Portrait) / Artwork by Hilary Krzywkowski

My blogging topics include home education, autism, disability advocacy, issues that effect the LBGTQA community, intersectionality, social justice, and disability arts and culture. At Sojourner's Tent Press, I assist the editor in proofreading manuscripts and content layout. I currently maintain three websites. When I'm not blogging, I'm immersed in writing and illustrating graphic novels and writing poetry and sci-fi/fantasy.

In 2013 I authored my first graphic novel, "Afterbirth: A Journey Through the Death of My Self". I'm currently in the beginning stages of two separate projects-- "Faces" a portraiture-study in emotion comprised of over 50 interpretive "selfies", and my newest graphic novel "Harry", an autobiographically inspired coming-of-age tale about a disabled, queer, non-binary autistic youth in inner-city Cleveland. I'm always open to collaborations that have anything to do with the above mentioned themes. I've contributed pro bono art and editing services, writing, consulting and creative solutions for artists and writers in need. I hope to continue volunteering towards social justice, education, and disability advocacy.

Interview by Michael Limnios         Artworks by Hilary Krzywkowski

What do you learn about yourself from the children’s?

There was always a certain level of disconnect from my body and mind before giving birth to and raising children. When I became pregnant and during the postpartum period straight through the first couple years of my children’s development, I experienced what it means to be animal-- a mammal. There are two minds which comprise what we know as “psyche”, I discovered—the civilized mind, you know, the one we develop through social conditioning and psychological programming, and then there’s the animal mind, which is all body, it’s a physical reality wherein what appears to be mental processes are actually instincts and reactions. We‘re taught negative ideas about being reactive. We’re taught that reactivity is impulsive, crude behavior, and aggression. We are conditioned to believe that instincts are secondary to a cultivated intellect and so most of the time, many of us can’t make a connection between instinct and intellect, or that the two are not mutually exclusive.

Babies are animals. Human babies are mammals with readily-observed instincts and reactions. What I learned from nurturing my young children are the conditions of this life. I would like to write a bit about disability. Every single member of my household is disabled. I am a disabled mother who cares for disabled children. Caring for and being in active, minute-by-minute, day-by-day relationship with children has shown me how much this society expects from its youth and just how unrealistic and damaging those expectations are. I think you should know that I’m divided on the adjective “disabled”. I wonder if it’s internalized ableism that causes me to want to refrain from labeling my children’s physical and psychological boundaries “disability”. There are other times I see that the children being as they are in our home is ‘normal’. When they pass through our doors and onto the outside, they lose a considerable chunk of their independence, their agency, their identity. It’s when I see this dynamic that I realize that there is this one reality of our ability, and then this reality, the one of our own world, translates to something different when on the outside, where the dominant way of ambulating, of accessing buildings and services, of being heard, seen and felt is not entirely reachable to us. The benefits of this society are not ‘one size fits all’, it is like ‘you must be this tall to ride’, but then, go and apply that concept of access to gender and intellect, the shape of one’s body, and all of the senses. That is what all of us deal with. But, there’s a twist to it.

My three children, all primarily educated at home, all under the age of 10, don’t seem to have an innate concept of disability in the sense that their outside world knows it.  It’s difficult to teach them about this because I come from a generation of autistics that have been institutionalized, medicated, shamed, ‘tamed’, trained, and terrorized into a state of near-complete neurological control. I realize that disability has its own culture, and it could be that THIS is the aspect of themselves I should be concerned with exploring. Consequently, in the process I’m discovering myself. I see my young autistic self in my son and daughters. I can predict with great accuracy what will trigger panic for them, what will hurt them, what will close them, what will open them, what they will enjoy. There is autistic language, autistic body language and ESP (this isn’t woo-woo stuff, this can be measured, it’s concrete). I ‘m raising my autistic children to be autistic. I am an autistic person learning my autistic culture for the first time. This is our mark we’re making, our song we’re learning -- it is learning to fly, or to burrow, to build nests or how to ascend the jagged mountain range without slipping once. It wasn’t until I brought children into this world when I realized the power of being autistic. My children came into this world with experiences and perceptions that teach me how to be human.

What does the ART and “Freeing My Heart” mean to you?

“Freeing My Heart” is the new title for my blog that was originally, “Healing Hilary’s Heart”. It took many years of active participation in my own healing process to finally come to realize that I’m indeed not a free person, and now that I realize that, just what in the world does that mean? What does that look like? What of it is brought about by my own design, what of that is a condition of living in the West, of being part of this Western culture? I am just now realizing what it means to be an individual (that is instinctual and not easily articulated). I’m now beginning to understand what authenticity is, what art is, how to not manipulate language and imagery to express inner worlds, but rather, to fuse with my surroundings, to enter into relationship, in agreement with the world and produce something from that, whatever it may be, whether it is visual art, music, dance, literature, scientific exploration, adventuring, interpersonal relationships and so forth. I’m now entering this chapter of my life where everything has transitioned from battle and affliction and wound making, to scar tissue to making art with my scars to storytelling about the struggles that produced the wounds to accepting the reality of suffering and healing, to now exploring the world with the knowledge that being wounded is an inevitability and all of life is an endless series of experiences with risks of injury. Freeing my heart from fear is now a central goal for I intuit that unbalanced fear destroys and takes away lessons learned, robs me of an intellect. Laying down taproots to get at the source of instinct as a mammal, as a human is how I’m going about balancing fear. Wild animals know how to spend their fear. I want to learn how to do that. That involves freeing my heart from attachment to things that are always running and returning, dying and becoming.

What characterize Hilary’s artwork and mission?

I find my own work difficult to characterize or describe. I think my art is reactionary. Sometimes, and this was easier in childhood, I dabble in fantasy. I work in details, symbols, puns. As of late, I’ve been working with my iPad to create art through a painting simulation program. I get a bit annoyed when inattentive viewers make a guess that I put all my images through apps that render them for me. In actuality, each picture is rendered stroke by stroke with a stylus on the touch screen. You’ll see a lot of pattern incorporated in my non-digital, 2D hand-painted acrylic and ink paintings along with found objects glued or tied onto the wood or canvas. I like to paint rocks and bones and repurpose garbage.

I do not really have a mission. I’ll have projects lined up for myself, which are more about keeping busy and keeping my mind limber. My mission is to not atrophy and die inside. I know that sounds grim, but for someone in my position, creating art is literally an act of survival. My other mission is to remember not to please people or sensor myself. I am not the sort of artist who wants to please others with my work, and for the sort of work I make, I can’t worry over possible reactions. There’s a lot I have to express, and a short time to do it.

What experiences have triggered your ideas most frequently?

Up until this winter of 2016-2017 trauma has motivated all my creative ideas. Since June of 2008 I’ve been on quite an agonizing yet important mission to heal my mind and body from what has been the most beautiful and terrifying moment of my whole life—the events and circumstances surrounding the birth of my first child. I would not like to discuss this at length though. I may direct you to a website I set aside for dealing with that.

So then, this winter, I began shifting my focus away from personal traumas that seem disconnected from collective traumas and I’m seeking community with others in my demographic. I’m reaching out and I’m learning from my fellow disabled contemporaries. I desire to make music too. I want to exploit my synesthesia in new creative ways and see where that takes me, what I will find.

How started the thought of Faces project?

I just bought an iPad for supportive purposes, and one night I was tinkering around with a painting simulation app and ended up painting selfies of my Facebook contacts. I knew at that time that I would be terminating all of my four Facebook accounts this summer, and wanted to capture the images of my Facebook friends in expressive paintings to add to my scrapbook. I gave these portraits to the people, as a token of my friendship, something to remember me by. The process elicited strange emotions in me, and I decided to run with that, so I journaled my feelings as I went along. It seemed that not many people had this psychological/emotional experience with looking at faces, and that lefgt me to believe that my experience is an autistic one. Many of us have much difficulty looking into the eyes of other people, many of us can read minds and feel others unexpressed emotions that swim beneath the surface of facial expressions. The confusion the seeming blindness to social cues I think is what I know to be true about the other person from their smell, their body language, their facial expressions and tone of voice versus what they are trying to act out and I know they are attempting to conceal their mental states. I feel very uncomfortable, like walking in on someone by accident in a public restroom. Humans give themselves away, they reveal vulnerabilities constantly. I can perceive all of that. My spouse jokes around a lot, calling me a human lie detector, and the kids say I have eyes on the back of my head because of my ability to detect what is going on even though no one is telling me.

To bring this back around to my “Faces” project—I want to go about this process of categorizing emotion visually, artistically, but not with abstraction. If emotion could be captured in a still life—I want to try and do that. I want to prove to myself that I know what is going on—it is a fallacy that autistics do not show or read emotion very well. In reality we are hypersensitive, that is why we look away, seem like we are in our own worlds and dead to the outside, we may seem robotic and cold.

What touched (emotionally) you from the human faces?

Everyone is a child. In faces I can see there are many broken psyches, many hurting children. When I paint somebody, even if they are smiling, I feel like I am dressing a wound, or kissing a scar, loving something about someone that they guard others from loving, something about themselves they find difficult to love. I find that and I bring it out and adorn it. There is innocence in present in every face. I’ve studied the faces of my past abusers (in photographs) and I can see, in nearly every instance, an injured child. It makes it easier to forgive them though sometimes it is dangerous to do so; it is like approaching a predator with peace in your heart. You might be eaten, and must be prepared for that, you must be prepared to give yourself up in the greatest sense. Humans are loving, compassionate and yet aggressive and predatory—we are a paradoxical species.

How has the ART and PHILOSOPHY influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

My views of the world are influenced by personal experiences.

The artists who’ve guided my approach to coping with and understanding the outside world (and my personal experiences) are Frida Kahlo, Georgia O’Keefe, Salvador Dali, and Vincent Van Gogh. From Frida I’ve learned to create with my suffering and to not hold back with that process, to be completely honest with the medium. From Georgia I learned about the visual sense and how to see what is in front of me the way that hands feel for furniture in a dark room. From Salvador I’ve learned the art of fetish, how to balance pleasure and fear like smooth ascending stones, how to find release in the creation of my art and give birth to myself again and again. From Vincent I’ve learned the nature of longing and how to bare the slow and painful years, to sculpt with imagery, to free my heart from fear by falling into a state of unconditional love with what hurts and abandoning all shame. I am not at all surprised that the events of my life have progressed along this course. These artists have always been my spirit guides, so there is something of their lives in mine.

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences?

I don’t feel that I have a really good answer to this question, but I’ll answer it as best as I can. I never have had acquaintances. When I meet someone they either stay, or they don’t. The people who stay are important. The person who I’m now married to is the most important ‘acquaintance’. This is not a romantic circumstance. I’m not into romance. When I met David, my life was irreversibly changed forever. When we met, I was at the lowest point of my life, in the process of becoming homeless, and for some months I slept on couches while studying at college. This story is similar to how my parents met each other-- hovering around the same haunts while missing each other, knowing the same people but never discovering each other until a certain point—the lowest, most turbulent point (my mother was a drifter for a while until the point when she met my father).

When I and David met, we were both ripe fruit needing to be picked. We picked each other’s brains and traveled across the United States twice; both journeys were for months at a time spent living out of our vehicle, motels, crashing at friendly stranger’s homes, and campgrounds. I’m not sure what we even thought we were doing, though now when we get to talking about our travels, we’ve acknowledged that we were trying to run away. We knew that we loved each other from the point of introduction; and our legal marriage (we have had two ‘appeasement’ marriages in 2007 & 2008 to satisfy disgruntled extended family and keep the peace, but we consider our secret eloping in Georgia on December 28th, 2006 our real marriage date) is not typical in any sense. In fact, it’s pleasantly strange. While this is far from being a bad thing, it’s confused friends and relatives. We are family to each other first and foremost. Friendship and nurture are at the center of everything.

What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Briannon Lee put out an encouraging YouTube video “Neurodivergent parents – You are enough!” for all other neurodivergent parents including those of us parents who are autistic, and there was one part that really touched me, and caused me to see myself in a different way--- “offer yourself the same love and acceptance and kindness and forgiveness that you offer your children…” To do this takes daily practice, especially since I was not raised around people who let up on themselves and accepted differences and limitations, my default mode is constant inner criticism. The more I practice kindness on myself the more I feel at peace in my own skin and therefore I become more emotionally open to my loved ones.

One more piece of advice which came from a hospital patient I met during one of my lengthy stays at a women’s ward had to do with dealing with hospital bill collectors (and what American doesn’t have some stack of medical bills buried somewhere), “You can’t squeeze blood from a turnip”. This came from a person who had spent literally months in consecutive years hospitalized for the same health problems. She practically had a life built in that ward. So, you can imagine the debt accrued from that. I apply her advice to all debt collectors now. Often a person finds themselves accruing debt just by surviving the booby traps of society. I’m mostly responsible with money and try to stay out of debt, but for some pesky thorns in my side, such as disability-related expenses, this advice is comforting. This is a good saying to develop into a mantra for surviving the all-pervasive stress that comes from living in the USA.

If you could change one thing in the world / people and it would become a reality, what would that be?

Realistically speaking, if I could change anything in this world, it would be myself. But, if I had to pick something to change, regardless if it is realistic or not, I would change the fear factor. I would eliminate all fear. To be specific, I would change the media, a major generator of widespread fear—Facebook for instance. You cannot function when you’re afraid. When I am caught in defense mode (fight or flight), and it happens very often with my autistic neurology, I become very ill. Excessive fear is not good for the adrenal glands or the kidneys; it strains the heart, corrodes and imbalances the gastrointestinal tract, and distorts the senses, thereby clouding judgment. Excessive, purposeless fear is poison.

How important was music in your life?

Music is necessary for me to properly uncoil my mind and to give my sensory functions a routine tune-up. I need to decompress daily—I climb into bed and get Youtube up on the iPad and put on my favorites— 60’s Bollywood (I’m crazy about the Jaan Pehchan Ho - Mohammed Rafi, Gumnaam Dance Song video that was featured in the film based on the comic, Ghost World directed by Terry Zwigoff); I also love Kimya Dawson, Desmond Dekker, Big John Greer, The Meters, Louie Armstrong, Al Green, Erika Badu, The Pixies, Sonic Youth, Nirvana, Ashley Eriksson (The Island Song is my special song for David and recalls the specialness of our love), Belle and Sebastian, Velvet Underground, DEVO, The Moldy Peaches, Magnetic Fields, Silver Jews, Ben Folds, Michael Jackson, Eartha Kitt, Nina Simone, Mira Yom Tov, Shefita (Rotem Shefy), Riff Cohen, Simon and Garfunkle, the 1920’a Yiddish Theatre, Kaki King, Classic Blues & Jazz, folk, orchestra, Celtic and middle eastern music too.

I also look for interesting artists I never heard of before, that is how I discovered Black Moth Super Rainbow, Mirah Yom Tov, the Moldy Peaches and the Magnetic fields, by the way. My CD player got me through my turbulent and perilous teenage years, probably even saved my life. Though I’m an atheist I still seek mental states that are akin to prayer, and when I cannot pray I listen to or make music. It is the same thing. I also learn about history and culture through music—the instruments, the tempo, the rhythm and lyrics, and of course, the voices. Music compels me to connect with the world. I love watching street musicians.

How does music affect your mood and inspiration?

I can only give you an example of how music affects my mood and inspiration because my responses to music are unpredictable in this regard. I listened to music from the Grand Old Opry and the Carter Family while painting a birth trauma series for an art fellowship I was part of in 2015. The blue grass was the only sound capable of teasing out my agony in beautiful imagery. The sounds of a broken mother’s heart are Maybelle Carter’s autoharp. I felt in the presence of these confidants, veterans of having grappled with trauma, unrequited love, and bitter betrayals, and so, it was safe to create from my broken place. I can link you up with that body of work if you are interested in viewing it.

On second thought, I did spent some additional time with this question and would like to add that the music that resonates with me can also cause deep irritation. A psychologist once told me that I avoid painful emotion and painful memories and this is what causes my anxiety and panic to run in a feedback loop (as someone who lives with complex post-traumatic stress, these emotions and memories can feel like my entire self, like nothing else about me exists). Music opens those dark dusty spaces, it opens Pandora’s Box. I experience catatonia with music that resonates with me, I disappear. When I am pulled out of that, I get very grumpy or can feel very off for days at a time. Other times, when I enter trances I bring back a feeling, a string of images, like you do when you come back from an amazing vacation where you experienced something unlikely or sublime. I see people in music. I taste and smell music. I don’t know if this can be attributed to synesthesia.

Where would you really want to go with a time machine?

This is a difficult question. I never really liked this question that I would come across in school assignments throughout the years, so I’d write down generic answers. I think I’ll have to be genuine here. I would get into the time machine and pull its lever to the year 1967, Cleveland. Why? This is when and where my parents first met. It’s also the year before my father’s close friend and Cleveland mimeo-revolution poet, d.a. levy killed himself.

What memorabilia (books, records) would you put in?

As many chapbooks from Cleveland poets I could amass. I would take zines and hand-drawn comics, a couple boxes full of children’s toys. I would take a Leonard Cohen record, and a Peter, Paul, and Mary. Last, but certainly not least, I would steal my mother’s most precious sketchbooks and art prints and take several of her poems.

What is your DREAM; NIGHTMARE? What are your hopes and fears for the future?

My dream is to grow to be very, very old and to see my children ripe with age. I did the math—if I live to be 100, my children will be ages 85, 83, and 80 respectively. It would bring me immeasurable joy to see them grow wise, grey and wrinkly. I enjoy the aging process and hope for wisdom to unfold in me. I dream to be part of a self-sufficient Autistic community in which I am free to feel life without social and emotional barriers of stigma, non-acceptance and taboo.

A long-time nightmare of mine is to be eaten alive by another animal (this includes acts of torture/murder by human animals). Since becoming a mother, my nightmare is my children to experience unspeakable suffering and/or die before me.

I am terrified of grief. All the grief I’ve experienced has been very traumatic. It’s difficult for me to emerge from it, and the sort of grief that comes with losing a child is just like being ripped apart by a wild animal. For example, in 2006 my 6 year old niece died of viral meningitis. I did not witness it first hand, my parents did, but they watched my brother, a man who never cries, fall to his needs and wail with shock, terror, and grief. My brother’s helplessness and suffering imprinted on me. The memory of losing my niece haunts me. I think it augments the fears I have for my own children. To that end, I also have to add, that I did save my baby daughter’s life twice. It was my paranoia and fear that saved her---or---well, it actually was listening to my instincts. I just knew there was something wrong during her naptime, the baby monitor was on and though I could hear sounds in her room that seemed typical enough, I just wasn’t convinced.  I went to check on her anyway and discovered she was choking on her spit-up (she was sleeping on her back and failed to roll over and so, aspirated the vomit). Here lips were blue and she was gasping. I phoned the paramedics, set the cellphone on the floor and immediately performed CPR and cleared her airways. By the time the emergency crew arrived at my home, she was breathing again. After this ordeal I said “to hell with a crib” and slept with my baby from that point on. I’ve co-slept with all my children when they were babies; even though others found it unwise to do so, I know my decision was the safest one.

My hopes and fears for the future? I hope to die someday a very old person with lots of love surrounding me. I want to see my children fulfilled and happy. It will not disappoint me if my children do not have children of their own. I do want them to have full lives of their own choosing. I am afraid of the earth dying. I am afraid of what my children’s future ----all children’s’ futures will be if what is happening all around the world continues along this current destructive path. But this is what we knew we were doing when we conceived and birthed our children; we knew they would belong to the world. We knew they would have to heal it.

 Happiness is found in…

a moment or series of moments, and I’m beginning to observe that while it [happiness] doesn’t last long some times, there are other times that the moments seem to comprise most of a morning or an afternoon, or are dotted throughout the day. For example, happiness to me right now in this moment while I’m answering this question is sitting in this quiet room with my thoughts without distraction. Earlier this evening at about 8 o’clock, happiness was cuddling with my youngest daughter and smelling her hair while she told stories. Last evening, happiness was sneaking into my cupboard while the kids were off playing a game and relishing the last four chocolate cookies out of the box (their texture was exquisite). Happiness for me is when I can put my whole attention to something, live in that moment while absorbing all the details so I can make good memories out of it. I think it is the memories of my happiness that gives me the strength to sit with and listen to my sadness. This happiness business feels very new to me since not too long ago I thought that I didn’t experience much of it throughout my life. But now, since I recently begun to redefine happiness, I look back and see that I am actually happy quite a lot, just my moments don’t necessarily fit the bill for what American mainstream culture typically romanticizes happiness to mean. I can’t speak for others, but I know I tend to fall into the trap of romanticizing what “ought to be” to the exclusion of the pleasurable moments in my day to day life that “just are”. Romanticization repels happiness.  My happiness may look mediocre to most people, but not caring about other’s judgments of my happiness, has only heightened my pleasure in this emotion.

What is the impact of music on literature?

I don’t know how to properly answer this question because I think I experience the two separately, or at least separately in the sense that the two remain distinct while occupying a mutual space, not necessarily a form of either that is inspired by the other one. I mentally hear a ‘soundtrack’ to good literature. Good literature makes movies in my head, and my brain knows which music to set to scenes. My life is accompanied by the music in my head. When I go catatonic (and that can happen daily for an hour at a time), I’m living in a world that is made up of scenarios, music is the background noise, it accompanies imagery.

I also think most film and book cult culture involves literature.  The comic (and film) Ghost World comes to mind.

What is the relationship between ART on the socio-cultural implications?

This is nothing new-- there is the art of the people, the art of the Bourgeoisie, and then High art, art of the upper castes. There is also underground art, there is outsider art. I never heard much by way of outsider art until this year when my work was solicited for an online disability arts journal: The Deaf Poet’s Society. Mandem, the art editor had quite a good bit to say on the subject of outsider art while presenting all the featured artists in a provocative light (before Mandem’s critique of my work, I hadn’t any notion of what socio-cultural implications where imbedded in my work).

Where I live in Cleveland Ohio, art of the Bourgeoisie is everywhere, and it is prized, it is the hallmark of Cleveland culture and it is good for business.  As for me (and as it turns out, an overwhelming number of artists in the same demographic)-- I’ve only been shown in small scale shows, a few galleries here and there, never as a solo artist, and always as part of a narrow, specialized theme such as politics, the working class, the realities of medical patients, and childbirth. It is important to understand that the themes that dominate my most powerful and beautiful creative works have to do with underrepresented and stigmatized populations—the mentally ill, the diseased, the chronically ill and dying, the disabled, the abused, marginalized and exploited, the impoverished. I’ve been described as an “asylum artist”. Asylum art is a very taboo subject for Cleveland. Not that the art community as a whole would care to acknowledge this, but, much of Cleveland’s underground art scene is built by asylum artists—visual, music, and performance art. In that regard, for us, there is no line drawn between art and life. It is the same thing. We’ve had our mouths taken (and stolen) from us. The social stigma generated around our very biology and personhood effects our agency as artists. We are not allowed to have a voice. There is no representation. So, our art speaks for us. It is no surprise that there are few places that will exhibit our work-- we figured out that WE must create spaces for our own. The internet has been an invaluable resource for bringing this creative community together.

The socio-cultural implications must be seen firsthand in this inexhaustible collection of work, in the messages of our artists. You won’t see narrow themes; you’ll see bursts of color, a wide spectrum of shadow, a deep ocean of nuance and symbolism. In spite of the society that houses and displaces us, the worlds of our culture are borderless and there isn’t any cage—it is all intersecting, relevant, and tugs at window shades that conceal the unacknowledged realities of the collective psyche. I think that is an unsettling, even frightening concept for most non-marginalized people who proudly proclaim that they support the arts. My art doesn’t need societal-support in order to exist (I create with or without the funding). I would like to leave you with these questions that Mandem in Issue 3 of Deaf Poet’s Society asks of our community of artists--

“How do we create and thrive? What does it mean to be an artist whose work and value will inherently be questioned in a way that insider art will not? Do we let reception dictate our creation? Do we embrace the challenge and force our way into established aesthetics? Do we celebrate our victories even knowing that these celebrations may be co-opted by those who will use them against us? Do we try to forge our own way, risking failure in uncharted territory (and even if we could -- can any artist really escape the socio-aesthetic landscape in which they percolate?)”  These questions concerning our art are the same questions we ask of our survival and rights to life and happiness… You should take a look at issue 3 of Deaf Poet’s Society, here is the link: https://www.deafpoetssociety.com/art-editors-note-issue-3

How you would spend a day with Buddha?

This is a funny question. I’m tempted to romanticize my answer, but I’ll be realistic here. If Buddha were to materialize and plop down into my life tomorrow morning, I would allow myself the initial shock and then ask for assistance with cooking breakfast, and then grab an extra place setting for one more person. After breakfast I may ask Buddha to join me in giving my oldest daughter her reading lessons. I might work up the nerve to ask him to speak his language for us, teach us his favorite lullaby.

I would introduce Buddha to the lovely Ratkin sisters, Ivy and Snickle-Fritz, and invite him to hold them. I would show Buddha my blog and artwork and grab the family photo album while pointing at pictures of my babies and telling stories about them. We would have a lot of down time together because I am usually quite ill and movement-restricted and therefore can’t gallivant around town.

So, all of us--- the kids, Buddha and myself would lay about the house learning, playing video games and creating art until David comes home from work and we can cook dinner, then take everyone to the library or park. For that day Buddha would be part of my family. I hope Buddha would not mind having to answer a lot of questions. My family always rattles off lists of questions for newcomers. It’s Buddha we’re talking about here. There’s so much to know! I sense that Buddha would not mind living a day in my life.

What would you say to Van Gogh?

I’m afraid nothing too spectacular or important-sounding. “Would you like to come over and spend the day with us?” “Would you like to be my friend?” “Do you have an Email address? Can I have it?”

 What would you like to ask Einstein?

“Have you read Steve Silberman’s book, ‘Neurotribes’? What is your opinion of the neurological type called ‘Autism’? Many experts say that you are autistic, you know. What do you feel about that? Also, and this is an important question-- Do you have any advice for American physicians on how to be kinder to ‘difficult’ [disabled and chronically ill] patients? If so, what is it?”

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