“Dimensions of Innocence”: Among the artworks on display at the Westcott Community Center.
Wobus is a 24-year-old man with autism. The symptoms of this neurological condition manifest themselves differently from person to person, but in general it affects communication, behavior and perception. Wobus is non-verbal and requires an assisted-living situation. Sensitivities heightened by autism make it difficult to navigate everyday life, but these same sensitivities sometimes yield talents. In Wobus’ case, he plays piano, enjoys puzzles and is a prolific painter.
Wobus began painting during his time at Fayetteville-Manlius High School. Now he attends a weekly painting class where he works in many media including watercolor, oil pastel, tempera and acrylic.
Most of the works in the show are pure abstractions. One painting clearly evokes a wooded hill but others have no subject matter save the colors themselves. Like abstract masters Cezanne and Kandinsky, Wobus prefers rich forests of color to individual trees. In a statement accompanying the show, Linda Wobus describes her son’s “enthusiastic, broad, vibrant strokes.” The paintings exhibit a vigorous energy but also a delicate equilibrium.
They are complex enough for imaginations to go wild figuring out possible scenarios. In one painting, a scarlet tongue of lava advances from the left. The neighboring areas of yellow and amber are run through with flaming orange licks. A tiny arm of the red takes a jag up into a cool green field, otherwise unspoiled.
In a quieter acrylic, various purple tints meander and blush over each other to form loose horizontal stripes. Small patches of white and deep blue peek through, uncompromised. The dozen or so paintings on display differ from one another in terms of color choice, size and style, which seems at odds with the idea that people with autism prefer compulsive repetition.
Naturally abstract art makes people wonder what the artist is trying to say. In this case, that’s a vexing question. Ultimately there is no way to truly know another’s mind, autistic or not. Wobus’ deft use of a language more universal than speech reminds us that no isolation is absolute.
Meanwhile, art from a different mind-set is on display at the Westcott Community Center. “No one else will ever love you.” “You got what you deserved.” Abusers say such things to reinforce feelings of shame, helplessness and isolation in their victims. If a person starts to believe that they are indeed alone, that no one could understand, they are less likely to speak out or escape the situation.
Vera House has been helping women and families in crisis for more than 30 years. One of their current programs, the Art of Caring, encourages survivors of domestic violence to reach out to others with poetry and visual art. Local artists and businesses donate their talent and resources to create high-quality posters from the work.
The ages of the anonymous artists range, as do their styles. An elegant pencil drawing captures the “Blissful Repose” of a smiling girl lying among dandelions. “Mistakes are lessons: you must love you before you can love someone else” consists of a few loose brush strokes describing a damaged heart and its faint radiation. A small girl stands alone in “Dimensions of Innocence.” Tall grasses tangle around her, a dismal gray seascape echoing the distress on her face.
Money raised from the sale of these prints goes to support Vera House programs. The posters also provide a catharsis, a chance to work through difficult emotions. Most importantly, they spread a message: You are not alone, others have survived this and there is a place to go for help.
Visit the Vera House Survivors’ Art Exhibit at the Westcott Community Center, 826 Euclid Ave., weekdays between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. or by appointment until the end of August. A reception will be held Thursday, Aug. 21, 6 to 8 p.m. Call the center at 478-8634 or Vera House at 425-0818 for more information.
Tim Wobus’ paintings will be on display through Aug. 29 at the Y Arts Community Gallery within the YMCA, 200 Towne Drive, Fayetteville, which is open Mondays to Fridays, 5:30 a.m. to 10 p.m.; Saturdays, 5:30 a.m. to 9 p.m.; and Sundays, 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. For more information, call 637-2025.