Meet the “Through Our Eyes” Artists

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April 1 – 30, 2014

A collaborative project exhibiting art by adults with autism and other intellectual/developmental disabilities.


Alex Albert

Alex is in his early twenties. He has been gradually increasing his attendance at Make Studio over the past year, working towards coming each week. Having enjoyed drawing in densely layered sharpie for many years, he is beginning now to focus on his painting. Alex enjoys depicting family members, friends, and favorite places.

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Trent Altman

Altman is an abstract expressionistic artist creating work with brilliant acrylic color, texture, and mixed media on canvas. He has exhibited his art in fine art galleries and shows nationally since 2003. His work has received numerous international honors, including the McCarton’s Foundation Genius of Autism award and the United Nation Stamp for his image Abstract Garden II, which promoted autism awareness on a global level. His work has been featured in many shows, including a group show with Stephen Wilshire and the NYC: Strokes of Genius Art Show, as well as two books; The Art of Autism: Shifting Perceptions, 2012, and The Art of Autism – Shattering Seven Myths of Autism through the Voices and Art of Those on the Spectrum, 2010.

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Rafael Angevine

Rafael was diagnosed with autism at 26. Most of his school years were spent in isolation, but before he even knew what autism was he began to teach himself to look other people in the eye. He has enjoyed photography ever since he could hold a camera; Rafael is not in many of the photos of his childhood because he was the one behind the lens. He describes his work by saying that he doesn’t think about what he sees, he just sees something and takes a picture of it. Rafael believes that you can always delete, but you can never get back the picture. For Rafael, photography can also be a way of controlling over stimulation. He especially likes shadows and lines, an affinity that he attributes to his linear mode of thinking. Rafael receives support from the Art League of Germantown.

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Robert Blackiston

Quiet and somewhat introverted, Robert Blackiston is a 28 year old African American artist who has a highly individualistic style, which he has worked on and refined at Arts Options and in his years at Washington VSA. He has the ability to draw anything and to reduce complex subject matter into forceful and intense compositions with his unique and powerful lines. He enjoys word puzzles, going to the gym, swimming, singing, drawing in his sketchbook, and listening to country and western music on his iPod. His artwork has been displayed at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, Hillyer Art Space, VSA, ARTiculate Gallery in Washington, DC and Providence Optics.

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Esther Brokaw

Esther Brokaw was born in 1960 in Woodbury, N.J. and currently resides in S.E. Connecticut. She became aware of autism in 2004 when her 12 year old daughter was diagnosed. Subsequently, she herself was diagnosed as having Asperger’s Syndrome with savant abilities in patterns. As a pattern savant her abilities encompass math, music, and visual spatial skills. She has lived a varied life, having worked as a roofer, a carpenter, a salesperson and a waitress in addition to having had years of speech and voice training. She graduated from the University of North Texas in 1985 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Business Administration and has worked most as an equity trader, a career which makes use of her gift for patterns. In 1990, when she took time off to have children, she began to explore her passion for painting and discovered an incredible talent. Her work has been shaped not only by her autism but also by having survived mercury poisoning, life-long Celiac Disease and all the complications that come with having two immune suppressing illnesses. Her brush detail is colorful and intense as she paints through years of traumatic illness, using color in an attempt to inspire and heal herself.

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Colleen Creedon

Colleen is positively engaged in a social network of artists. Her artwork provides her with a source of comfort, creative expression and increases her self-esteem. As a teenager, Colleen studied dance with Manhattan’s Broadway Dance Center, The New Jersey Ballet Company and the Whole Theater Company. Unfortunately, a serious foot injury interrupted her dreams of pursuing a dance Career. Shortly thereafter, she experienced the onset of bipolar disorder, from which many years of hardship ensued. However, with her resilient spirit, she has developed the insight necessary to manage her mental illness. Today, with proper medication and new interests, Colleen lives an independent and healthy life. Colleen’s participation in the Artists‘ Mentoring Group has offered her the opportunity to build a new community. These relationships inspire her creativity through the arts. Colleen has volunteered as a teacher assistant for the Artists’ Mentoring Group, working with students on the autism spectrum. In addition she has also volunteered at Universal Institute, working in the arts with disabled brain trauma patients. Colleen’s art has been featured in an ABC Eye Witness News interview, Johns Hopkins University, and Jerry Rose Florist in Maplewood, NJ.

Matt Daisey

Matt, an artist with Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children, has a talent for capturing artistic quality. His photographs reveal the intricacies of his subject matter. Matt enjoys composing shots of plants and flowers.

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Brian Depenbrock

Brian is a natural at creating landscape-style images through his photography. He knows how to angle the camera to ensure the subject shows its natural beauty and he enjoys capturing fine detail. Brian is an artist with Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children.

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Michelle Gavin

As a single mother with a bipolar diagnosis, Michelle worked full time and completed a bachelors degree in art history William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ. She has continued to explore her love of art and her creativity by serving as a teacher assistant to students who are on the autism spectrum. Michelle is an artist with the Artist Mentoring Group. She is also currently enrolled in a graduate program at William Paterson in pursuit of New Jersey Certificate of Eligibility with Advanced Standing to teach art. Although it is a challenge living with bipolar and having to take medication, the Artist Mentoring Group offers an advantageous environment where artistic skills, friendship, and self esteem are cultivated. Her work has been featured at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center exhibit in West Orange, New Jersey.

Derek Holloman

Derek is a native Washingtonian who paints exquisite abstracts. He enjoys music, learning about angels and their spiritual significance, and studying the cultural importance of dragons. He also practices tai-chi in his spare time to maintain his creative balance. His work has been displayed at numerous locations including the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, VA, the Hillyer Art Space, VSA, ARTiculate Gallery in Washington, DC and Providence Optics.

Cleon Thaddeus Jackson

Cleon believes that his hard work allows him to be prompt and successfully accomplish tasks. He has excellent communication skills and the ability to adapt to any environment. This talent for communication has allowed him to create new relationships and opportunities for his development as an artist. Knowledge of art and its different disciplines and media will allow him to help manage a gallery in the future.

Bradlie Jackson

Bradlie enjoys painting, singing, music and drama. In spite of her challenges, she is very confident in her abilities and was one of only 20 artists to show her work in two national juried shows. Bradlie graduated from Shepard High School in Morristown, NJ. and is now delighted to be part of the AMG class, where she and her art have progressed with the same individuals for the past five years. At AMG, she has experienced great success and growth, having sold multiple paintings and discovered new artistic talents in its positive and supportive environment. Her work has been featured at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center exhibit in West Orange, New Jersey.

Bruce Jackson

Bruce is the only child of a single parent household. He used to spend many hours alone creating cartoon characters; now, he paints new subjects and embraces new artistic styles and media. He learned to take public transportation to get to class and now has more independence and freedom in other areas of his life. Bruce once had difficulty managing his anger, but now he shares his frustration in a non-aggressive way. Bruce still specializes in drawing cartoon characters and will one day create a comic book from all the work he has compiled. He also enjoys painting caricatures, and most recently presented Michelle Charlesworth from ABC news with a caricature of herself. This gift was so well received that his work was featured on her facebook page and garnered Bruce an invitation to the studio in New York City. Bruce has been attending Artists’ Mentoring Group for the past 6 years and has found that it enriches his life. His work has been featured at Johns Hopkins University and the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center.

Dashir Johnson

Dashir’s work depicts the beauty he sees in everyone. He represents those with “differences” and hopes that the world will see the same beauty he does and find acceptance through his eyes. Dashir is a widely exhibited artist known for the strength of human emotion depicted in his work. Through Arts Unbound, he has gained a sense of community and is now more verbal and more engaged with others. His art speaks volumes. His disability has never stopped him from creating the art which touches so many. He never ceases to amaze his teachers as he transforms a blank canvas into a magical painting. As a student of the Artists’ Mentoring Group for the past six years, he has created a number of very charming paintings. He enjoys the use of vibrant colors and playful themes. His ability to focus on the task at hand is amazing. Several of Dashir’s paintings have been converted into greeting cards. His work has been featured at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland and the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center exhibit in West Orange, New Jersey.

Tony Labate

Tony is an artist with the Make Studio Art Program, Inc., in Baltimore, MD. This Catonsville resident is a graduate of the St. Elizabeth School and a student at St. Peter’s Adult Learning Center. He is also, in his own words, a “would-be writer of poetry” who loves to draw. Tony works with the residents of the Charlestown Retirement Community providing entertaining presentations on a variety of topics. He is considered an expert source of information about classic films, television, and late 20th century music. Tony’s artwork reflects his unique take on popular culture, often weaving personal and family narratives into his fascination with celebrity and spirituality.

James Lane

James is a natural with the quick shot. He has the ability to capture his subject in motion and centered in the frame. He enjoys photographing people and is a fine portrait artist. James would like to be a sports photographer one day.

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Paul Lewis

Paul is a natural. He draws as easily and as rhythmically as most people breathe. He is like a bolt of lightning: he is directed, can work very quickly, and while he will create similar pieces based on pop culture, no two are ever the same. Although Paul works without apparent premeditation, the resulting composition is always in proportion to the surface: he never runs out of room and never has room left over. He is especially aware of what’s happening in the studio and is often the first artist to greet visitors as soon as they step through the door. Paul is equally at home in acrylic, watercolor or oil pastel. He prefers strong color and uses line work to create both form and texture. His work is a particular favorite with home decorators.

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Dallas Looman

Dallas is a 25 year old student at Greenfield Community College in Massachusetts who has autism, epilepsy and anxiety disorder. He uses art to augment his ability to communicate. The creative process and resulting artwork are expressions of his understanding of words, of events, and of his perspective on the world. He had his first solo art exhibit in 2009. In 2013, one of his pieces was selected for the Infinite Earth juried exhibition at the S. Dillon Ripley Center of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC. Dallas Looman prepares tableaus of objects that may be overlooked or appear ordinary. His still-life drawings include carefully selected items that, in real life, may have no logical connections. On paper, however, Looman draws out beauty and integrity from scenes and objects that would otherwise be considered mundane. His preferred media is pastels and charcoal, which he wields expertly to create rich, saturated and carefully composed works. His drawings extend beyond the paper’s edge, enveloping the viewer in the scene.

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Bess Lumsden

Bess resides in Ruxton, MD. She attends community college when not engaging in a variety of creative pursuits at her home or, more recently, at the Make Studio program. She often says she’s been making art all her life. She especially enjoys costume and set design, Japanese anime, and gothic and magical themes which predominate in her recent artwork. She values her own open-minded nature, and an ongoing concern for her is that individuals are too often judged by others on their appearance or other preconceived notions. Her “Heroines of Horror” series of altered dolls explores this idea in a macabre but humorous fashion. Much of Bess’ most recent work examines the challenges of making the transition to adulthood, using the metaphor of containment (both the wanted and unwanted kind) and symbols of childhood and adventure.

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Michael Malfaro

Michael, from Reading, Pennsylvania, works in the media of found objects. In the vulgar language, some might call this junk; but Michael is able to see these objects as the basis of art. His first Sculpture, “Cactus Jim”, was begun on a trip to Austin, Texas to attend his uncle’s wedding. He began collecting things he found in a variety of places around Texas to create a unique vision of his memories of the trip. The majority of Michael’s found objects are discovered when walking his dogs. He particularly favors materials from discarded electronic equipment which he can reverse engineer. He is also drawn to memory jars, a medium he first discovered at the Johnstown Flood Museum and later learned was also practiced by slaves in the old South. Michael is also an accomplished writer, having written for Voices in The Reading Eagle and his own literary art magazine. His work has been featured at the Reading Jazz Festival and the Young Visionaries exhibition at the Outsider’s Folk Gallery in the Goggleworks Art Center.

Zach Manuel

A graduate of Harbor School, Zach joined Make Studio in the summer of 2012. He brought with him a strong interest in comics, animation, and science fiction. A man with many goals in both fine and digital art, Zach is currently expanding his artistic repertoire from colored pencils and markers. Exposing himself to various media and techniques, he draws his inspiration from animation as well as real life.

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Alex Martin

Alexander Gabriel Martin, or Alex, is a 20 year old student with autism who attends the Ivymount School in Rockville, MD. When he was 16 he established a small business with his family to showcase his artistic talents, raise awareness about autism, and donate money to organizations in need. Most recently, his mosaic pieces have been sold at Glen Echo Park Labor Day Art Sale. In 2013, cards made from his prints raised over $18,000 for the Jewish Social Service Agency in Maryland. He communicates via assistive technology and enjoys working with sequins, mosaics, beads, and tiles. He continues to do craft fairs throughout Maryland. Some of the organizations Alex’s Art Loft has donated to include those that help people cope with autism, brain injury, cancer, and bullying. Donations of glass, tiles, and beads to help Alex complete his art are welcomed and can be made by sending email to [email protected]

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Scott McGregor

Despite living with Asperger’s Syndrome, Scott holds a part time job and attends university in pursuit of a bachelor’s degree in fine art. He has been exposed to a myriad of different medium and excels in each, achieving the Dean’s List almost every semester. He creates very intricate work in a cartoon style which is truly his own, but has recently expanded his artistic expression from a focus on cartooning to a more varied study of other subjects, genres and media. Along with his many years of participation in the Youth Art Month Exhibit at the Montclair Public Library, Scott has exhibited his work at University of Maryland, the Craftsman Fair in Ledgewood, NJ and the West Orange Performing Art Center. Scott also received a Meritorious Achievement Award from USA Arts of New Jersey in recognition of his achievements in Fine Arts in 2008. He has been a student with the Artists’ Mentoring Group since October 2006, and has found it to expand his knowledge of the arts, foster his social abilities, and teach him valuable new skills in the arenas of art and business.

Charles Meisner

Charles is an artist with Community Services for Autistic Adults and Children. Charles has a prodigious memory for events of historical and personal significance and speaks of them in terms of days and distance. He also has an uncanny eye for geography, and a broad ranging interest in people and the media. It was that combination that resulted in NASA’s invitation for Charles to create a work focused on the moon landing for the celebratory exhibit marking the 50th anniversary of space travel. Fans of Charles are particularly drawn to the stream of consciousness commentary that infuses many of his pieces. If you’re lucky enough, you might find a piece of art with one of his conversations in it, but if not, don’t worry – the pictures he draws will tell the story of a specific place and moment, though it’s up to you to identify the location.

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Louis Middleton

With the support of his family, over the last few years Louis has operated his own photo restoration business and has logged a number of satisfied customers in this work. Louis has long enjoyed taking his own photographs, and now at Make Studio he is working to advance his computer skills. By digitally manipulating photographs and original imagery he is discovering new ways to express himself. However, he has also already discovered a love of drawing and painting and often uses this medium to tackle subjects such as architecture, country music icons, and outings with friends, layering straightforward (but never simple) shapes and bold color. Louis is also a devotee of all things retro and 50. His favorites include cars, game shows, restored diners, and Grease. Louis is a graduate of the St. Elizabeth School in Baltimore, MD. Louis bases much of his recent 2-D artwork off of photographs he’s taken himself. However he often searches for source imagery of his more famous subjects, and although he’s a quiet guy himself he enjoys a spirited sing-along to motivate this search.

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Mark Mullen

Mark was diagnosed with Autism at the early age of 18 months, when he was already able to navigate his way home by memory. He also showed an aptitude for music, exploring both violin and piano, but it is the visual arts in which his true talents shine. Mark was born in Ontario but spent the first ten years of his life in Las Vegas where he received ample support for his autism. He moved back to New Market, Canada, in 2004. Mark and his mother together organized an annual charitable motorcycle event, called “Help Solve the Puzzle: A Ride for Children with Autism”, from which 100% of the proceeds are donated to autism service dog organizations. Mark has always provided one-of-a-kind, signed pieces of artwork to raffle off at the event. Most recently this has been a set of Sons of Anarchy character portraits signed by the entire cast, who were very impressed with his work. Mark is in his 2nd year at Max the Mutt College for Animation and Art Design, specializing in sequential art. He hopes one day to work with DreamWorks, Disney or Pixar, but is aiming to work with his idol Tim Burton. Anyone who knows or meets Mark soon recognizes his imagination is infinite.

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Joe Myers

Joe enjoys photographing the outdoors. He specializes in capturing photographs of flowering trees with background elements in nature. Joe excels at framing his shots in light or shadows.

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Madison Prince

Madison is a twenty four year old resident of Montgomery County. He has been interested in art since he could pick up a pencil. He likes impressionism and exploring color. He is currently living at home with his parents and will soon be starting a new educational and arts program. Madison is the inspiration behind Madison House Autism Foundation, which was founded by his parents more than six years ago.

Jimmy “Jimmie” Reyna

Jimmie is great at capturing vibrant color. He found his love for photography by taking family photographs during the holidays. Jimmie enjoys photographing anything with rich color.

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Chantee Ricks

Chantee’s passion for art was first noticed when she was only 3 years old and realized when she was 7. Chantee has worked hard to develop and hone her skills as an artist. Her work has won numerous awards including first place at the North Jersey Craftman’s Fair, an Honorable Mention Award from ASAH Art Contest, and a recognition in the Arts Awards from VSA Arts of New Jersey. She has also garnered success with her poetry, which was selected as high merit and published in the spring 2012 anthology of A Celebration of Poets. Chantee’s particular interest is in the aesthetic of Japanese culture. She is currently a student at a local school that provides academic and social educational programs for learning-disabled students. She has been part of the Artists’ Mentoring Group class since 2010, and the program has helped her to fine-tune her skills. She hopes to pursue her artistic abilities after high school at a local community college and, one day, to move to Japan. Her Work has been featured at the Oskar Schindler Performing Arts Center exhibit in West Orange, NJ.

Kareem Samuels

Kareem is a young man on a mission… actually, several missions. Over the past few years, he’s embraced a new lifestyle of diet and exercise, and through presentations at his agency, St. Peter’s, Kareem has advanced his agenda of educating others about the benefits of healthy living. He is also motivated throughout his life to share a more spiritual message with others. At the studio, he has been experimenting with watercolor, acrylic, and more, to colorfully share the message of his heroic alter ego, “Bible Boy”. He says that being part of an art studio community is his “dream come true.”

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Gary Schmedes

Gary is recently graduated from St. Elizabeth’s School in Baltimore, MD. Prior to graduation, he began to explore the world of work that lies beyond high school by volunteering at the Visionary Art Museum. This volunteer position led him o Make Studio which he has continued to attend to further develop as a working artist. He has a meticulous eye for detail and combines his enthusiasm for animation classics with a witty sense of humor and word play to crate his own personal re-imaginings of familiar characters. Gary excels at drawing freehand in ink and has recently begun expanding to watercolor.

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Michael Tutson

Michael Tutson is a native Washingtonian and a gifted painter and sketch artist. Michael prefers a quiet and peaceful environment in which to harness his creativity. In his leisure time he enjoys sports, enhancing his culinary art skills, reading and working on puzzles; particularly Sudoku, at which he is exceptional. He enjoys working in the Takoma Park Studio with his peers because they make him want to learn and produce. His work has been displayed at the Torpedo Factory in Alexandria, the Hillyer Art Space, VSA, ARTiculate Gallery located in Washington, DC and Providence Optics.

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Jamal Williams

Jamal is a hard working and talented 28 year old African American autistic male who possesses exceptional art skills. He is an alumnus from the WVSA and came to the Arts Options program 2 years ago. He thrives on creating art and applying new skills and techniques to realize his highly stylized interpretations. He enjoys being in the community and is truly excited when meeting new people. His kinetic energies pay off when channeled into his own demanding standards for detail and excellence.

Jermaine Williams

Jermaine is a person who looks on the bright side of life and encourages others to do so too with his signature greeting of a thumbs-up “Hello. Smiling!” This attitude carries into his artwork with the expressive nature of his people, animals, and environments that he very confidently creates.

Sheryl Yeager

Sheryl has autism and has been creating art for 15 years as a means of coping with her reality. She grew up in a dysfunctional and abusive family environment and struggled through her teens and twenties to find self worth. In her early thirties, she discovered art through classes at Western Psych in Pittsburgh, PA and found that it gave her life meaning. After experimenting with many different mediums, she finally found pastels and the bright colors appealed to her. Sheryl says that art has removed much of the emotional pain in her life and that it allows her to deal with everyday stresses. Through art, she feels a part of God’s beauty in nature. She enjoys depicting animals because they are not judgmental or intimidating. Her work often includes vibrant color combinations and human expressions; the expressive quality of her work often conveys her inner emotions and concerns, an outlet she has found to be important to her happiness.

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