Lokii Rayne was diagnosed with Asperger’s just before her eighteenth birthday. She came to Cornwall to study animation at Falmouth University and liked the place so much she never left. After graduating, she began to struggle with her diagnosis because no-one had explained what having ASD (Autistic Spectrum Disorder) meant. It took her years to access therapy but her mum, close family members and pets kept her going – as did the garden art studio that was specially built for her so she could escape, be on her own and create whatever she wanted.
For Lokii, it was drawing little comics that allowed her to express her feelings. Her therapist encouraged her to use the medium as a way of illustrating her experiences from an autistic perspective and she is now one of the artists exhibiting their work in the Spectrum of Art exhibition that has opened at the Royal Cornwall Museum in Truro.
The idea for this special showcase of autism-related art came about after months of close collaboration between the museum and Spectrum, the organisation that provides information and support on autism.
“I contacted them last summer because we wanted to make the museum more autism-aware and they couldn’t have been more helpful,” said Community Engagement Officer Celine Elliott. “Our discussions led to us establishing regular ‘relaxed’ sessions when we provide an autism-friendly environment for anyone who wants to visit. They have been very successful and we’re now working with other museums in Cornwall to help them become more accessible too.
“Art in its many forms is an important means of self-expression and we’re delighted and honoured to be holding the Spectrum of Art exhibition which showcases a variety of work by artists with autism and some by artists without – there are no labels because that’s not what’s important.”
In addition to Lokii, those taking part are Darren Clarke, Jack Ashton, Karen Hill, Mark Bevan, Mark McMenemy, Milo Whitehead, Nathan Chellew and Sam Jose.
“Photography gives me a sense of freedom and a chance to explore and escape,” writes Nathan Chellew. “It takes me to places I have never been and a chance to see well-known places differently. I like the idea of my photography letting everyone’s imaginations run free, whether it be walking through a woodland with the sun coming through the trees and warming your back or lying on a sunny beach.”
Karen Hill says her interest in art started as a child when her art teacher encouraged her to drop in during free lessons and experiment with clay.
“I have always found creativity to be immersive and therapeutic and I have never stopped painting, drawing, printing, quilting, making collages and anything else I can try my hand at,” she explains. “For me it is a positive way of expressing myself and my emotions, to process and work through the challenges of daily life.”
Milo Whitehead says drawing and painting have been a part of who he is for as long as he can remember.
“There was a time when I had very few words, so I used pictures and colour to talk to the rest of the world. Whenever I sat down to create art, I found everything around me seemed somehow calmer and easier to understand. This feeling has stayed with me through childhood and my college days and to my current life living with friends on the north coast of Cornwall.
“Whether I’m producing sketches, screen-prints or an animated story, art helps me to share my ideas and hopes with other people. It helps me to reach out. It gives me a voice.”