Thursday, February 25, 2010

TED talk with Temple Grandin

photo by Tanakwho on Flickr   

When I was falling asleep a couple of nights ago, I paid attention to the images that popped into my head. This is not a new thing, the images. I remember first talking about it to friends years ago (their reaction led me to believe that I am somewhat different, maybe crazy).  The images come rapidfire, and are complete in their detail (to the point where I could easily draw them if I had a sketchbook and colored pencils). Bam!Bam!Bam!Bam!Bam!Bam!....  Purple watercolor gorillas, red barns in autumn, koi fish, green apples sitting on a sunny marble counter top. A lot of the images are very random, but sometimes I'll get a string of images that are somewhat related. Green orchids, yellow roses on a brick wall, tea roses, a cup of chamomile tea, lemon slices, oranges, limes on a wooden board.

    So, as I was saying, I paid attention a few nights ago. I snatched an image, studied it like I had snatched a dandelion puff from a breeze and was interested in how it floats. The aforementioned watercolor illustration of a lavender gorilla standing upright next to a simple light orange coconut tree popped in my head. I know it was watercolor because of the washes and the texture of the paper the image was on. At this point you're probably thinking the same thing I was thinking.. what was that all doing in my head? Where did it come from? Had I seen this before? Was it something that I had unconsciously squirreled away? Since my accident, I am all sorts of interested in how the mind works and why it does the things it does. I don't think I would have put the images up for examination if I didn't have an injury.  I think I would have just shrugged it off the way I did years ago.

Imagine my excitement today when I came across this TED talk by Temple Grandin. A description of the video from the TED site:

Temple Grandin, diagnosed with autism as a child, talks about how her mind works -- sharing her ability to "think in pictures," which helps her solve problems that neurotypical brains might miss. She makes the case that the world needs people on the autism spectrum: visual thinkers, pattern thinkers, verbal thinkers, and all kinds of smart geeky kids.

 And then I find this on Temple Grandin's website:

My mind is associative and does not think in a linear manner. If you say the word 'butterfly', the first picture I see is butterflies in my childhood backyard. The next image is metal decorative butterflies that people decorate the outside of their houses with and the third image is some butterflies I painted on a piece of plywood when I was in graduate school. Then my mind gets off the subject and I see a butterfly cut of chicken that was served at a fancy restaurant approximately 3 days ago.

I'm not saying I'm autistic, or a genius, or special. I do, however, heavily relate to what she describes as a photo realistic visual thinker. I even relate to her comments about algebra ( a few months ago I reflected on the disaster that was algebra, and I thought... why didn't I just do geometry?). I loved earth science, biology, and astronomy; but failed at chemistry (I had problems visualizing and couldn't relate) and therefore wasn't allowed to progress to physics (which would have probably blown my mind anyway). I still love science. I think that if I didn't have art, I would be working in a biology related field.

Picasso's Dora Maar with Cat

Art... it's pretty obvious I love art. I do everything from painting to drawing to 3D modeling and animation (self taught).

But even in art, I had some problems with abstract thinking. For example, I didn't understand Picasso's works until somebody said "he just draws the object/individual from all viewing angles at once and puts it all on the same canvas".  This made immediate sense. It was as though Picasso had the Matrix cameras. You remember where one of the main characters jumps up and the camera revolves around her even though she is still in the air? Another example-  I didn't understand Jackson Pollock either until a teacher said that his paintings are a record of paint in air. I related this to playing with water from a hose when I was a child. I remember trying to make very temporary water sculptures by making the water go in arcs, making arches that sparkled in the sun.

Temple says that there are many different brains, and together we are very strong and diverse. We all have our strengths and weaknesses.  

I'm going to go work on art now.  :)  Go do something that you love, too!

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