Funny Avatars / Albrecht Durer and Gone Wild

Wow! What fun: my childhood artistic hero Albrecht Durer “penned” this funny self-portrait in a 1506 letter to a friend. He supposedly was drunk at the time. I wasn’t drunk when I drew mine ca. 1980, but ‘altered states’ are a common artistic pitfall.

I zeroed in on Durer because of his “natural history” drawings and prints (as opposed to ghastly Christian advertising.) It wasn’t only his masterful technique, but a “sensibility” toward nature; scientific in quality, but conceptually transcendent, as if he merged with the animal or plant he was describing, and in an act of visual wizardry, revealed their essences, their “souls” if you wish. He did this by simply recognizing them as important “beings” in and of themselves; he revealed a world of integrated plants and animals outside the typical human blindness to nature as anything but a “resource” for human exploitation.

It was my desire to become a printmaker, but instead of going to art school, I was offered a job at a graphic design studio: I can see now that Durer’s greatest appeal and influence on me was as the “godfather” of graphic design. (I later studied geology) His work is modern; it remains so, because he is a fine original designer. His “sensibility” has been copied, expanded and his “eye for placement and relationship” of text and image is superb –  and has spread across time and space; across cultures.

“A Great Piece of Turf” – This Asperger child spent hours staring into the microcosm of overlooked reality revealed by Durer.

“Melancholia” 1503 / What artistic-science curious teenager wouldn’t be drawn to this image?




Plant Sensory Perception

Sensory perception is not limited to animals.


The role of plant sensory perception in plant–animal interactions

Mark C. Mescher and Consuelo De Moraes, Department of Environmental Systems Science, ETH Zürich, CH-8092 Zürich, Switzerland


Plants accurately track the physical variations that cause seasonal conditions on earth. Humans took many thousands of years and the construction / invention of calendars to do the same, and until recent technology, (with a few exceptions) these devices were crude and inaccurate.




The sedentary lifestyle of plants can give the false impression that they are passive participants in interactions with other organisms and the broader environment. In fact, plants have evolved sophisticated perceptual abilities that allow them to monitor and respond to a wide range of changing biotic and abiotic conditions. In this paper, we discuss recent research exploring the diverse ways in which plant sensory abilities mediate interactions between plants and animals, especially insects. Such interactions include the detection and capture of animal prey by carnivorous plants, active plant responses to pollinator visitation, the perception of various cues associated with the immediate presence and feeding of herbivores, and plant responses to (olfactory) cues indicating the threat of future herbivory. We are only beginning to understand the full range of sensory cues that mediate such interactions and to elucidate the mechanisms by which plants perceive, interpret, and respond to them. Nevertheless, it is clear that plants continually gather information about their environments via a range of sensory modalities and actively respond in ways that profoundly influence their interactions with other organisms.


The Earth’s Rotation is Our Refresh Icon


The arrant light of daybreak restores our desert province

to precious clarity, but as the world turns, the gray chaparral

and yellow cliffs bloom white hot and the banded hills

become a picture that is overexposed and uninviting.



The reward for our endurance comes at twilight,

when nature’s products, and man’s efforts as well,

are suffused with the crimson wavelengths of the sun’s farewell;

Until tomorrow then: The earth’s rotation is our refresh icon.

What is it like to be Asperger? / What is it like to be Me?

Panorama of small stretch of Flaming Gorge Res.

Tug-of-War comes to mind as a brief but  dynamic description for the fundamental “state” of being me. By fundamental, I mean that it has always been that way. I live in a strange “no man’s land” between very big landscapes and intimate detail; between “pictures” that make perfect sense and words which are meant to confuse, obscure, manipulate and dominate; to inform, to educate, but words don’t do any of this well unless the “user of the tool” has learned how to use language. Few people today are “trained” to use language adequately; children are urged to be “creative” without concurrently learning to use the verbal and visual tools of creative work and to acquire skills of discrimination that allow for expression. (Having something to say is utterly ignored.)

Case in point…

Accidental appeal is a component of the arts; does your image “fit on a T-shirt?” may be the ultimate artistic question in social communication. Emoticons and acronyms are about as dumbed-down as language can get. Not that the people using them are “dumb”; it’s the digital format that is dumb. It encourages copying of both “languages and images” –  not interpretive, expanded or sophisticated copying as has always been a fundamental “artistic” means of transferring cultural information, but direct duplication and repetition ad nauseum – puns; novelties, cartoon neoteny. Ideas? Memes are clichés that filled “Reader’s Digest” decades ago.

My “world” from space; zooming in does NOT relieve the bleak isolation LOL.

Tug-of-War isn’t accurate: that’s the problem with words: gross inaccuracy. The “big picture and the details” are pictures; images are so intimate. Maybe a better analogy would be satellite photos; big pictures that encode incredible detail. Zoom in: zoom out. It’s the mid-range, continental close-up – no edges visible, no shapes, no interfaces of land and water that may, after all, be fairly uninteresting. To become useful, “maps” are still constructed from satellite images. Is the “visual brain” – which seems to be common in many Aspergers, a “map-making” brain?

Like wordcraft, map-making used to be an art. Photography has replaced “art” – the belief that a photograph is a faithful representation of “reality” or what a person actually looks like, is cemented in place, but all art lies. Great art is stupendous at taking over the human perception of “reality” and seducing the brain and nervous system into experiencing a new dimension – the intangible mind of the artist. If art merely duplicated what we already see and know, it would have no value.

Flaming Gorge region translated as a map. Approx. 125 miles N/S

A tug-of-war after all? Within the domain of images, within visual thinking, within the visual brain: what one “sees” is a personal world that cannot be easily “translated” into conventional social communication. This “map” image says nothing at all about living here.

So – where is Asperger’s in this social universe created by man? How can it be observed and described, given the blunders inherent in human communication; in the gross over-generalizations of “social” language – an almost entirely inauthentic, dull and mind-numbing exercise in “echolalia” – repeat after me… Smile. Cheer up. Be positive. Look happy. Dress for success. Be sexy. Expect a miracle.

The land allows me to be me. Being Asperger is not the crazy mix of “symptoms” that are pin pricks on a tourist’s road map; it’s a total immersion experience.




Lost Shoes / Desert Artifacts

This is true. I come across lost shoes and articles of clothing in the oddest places.

This is true. I come across lost shoes and articles of clothing in the oddest places.

Most of the time that I spend in the desert there is no one around; maybe another vehicle passes along a county road destined for one of the mines or plants. Sometimes I hear the boom-boom of a shotgun from a distant arroyo where someone is target shooting. Like me, local people like to drive around the countryside just to drive; to feel like a Monopoly game piece moving on a vast rolling surface; to park on a rise and contemplate the broad and bleak universe of Wyoming.

City people find the prospect daunting: the scale is overwhelming. No trees; nothing taller than your knees. A trip to Mars,  but without the lovely red color. From a high spot south of town, two opposite mountain ranges can be seen that are 200 miles apart. Human beings settle into a landscape that reminds us that our proper place in the scheme of nature is rather smaller than we’d hoped. The important result is that a reduction in scale results in happier people, and I don’t say this because I’m Asperger.


“Less is more” not only in architecture, but in nature’s placement of people in a landscape.  Mies van der Rohe, 1947

When I do encounter signs of humans or animals in the desert, a peculiar emotion rises, as if a ghostly animal remains there – perhaps the reaction of a hunter who “learns” that signs and symbols can stand in for the real animal. A notion of time emerges: what “was” an animal traveling through, which stopped to drink water or was spooked by a predator, or laid down in a grassy spot overnight – all these create the picture of an animal that is no longer present, and yet is present in the mind of the tracker. It’s a peculiar overlap of then and now, which fuse into one “timeless” moment full of awareness, movement, relationship and fulfillment of function.


Growing out of Autism / Asperger’s and Education

By third grade I was identified by staff at the elementary school as “gifted” but socially backward. My report cards were stuffed with A’s but under teacher’s comments there was the ever-present “Does not work well with others.” There was discussion of sending me to a school for gifted children, or at least skipping a grade, but it was decided that I should stay put and that somehow “social behavior” would rub off on me. Looking back over a lifetime of experience with all this, I ought to have been sent to the “gifted” school. If anyone thinks being one of the smartest kids in class, year after year is fun, you are completely wrong. The smart kid, especially if female, is ostracized, ridiculed, watched intently for any error, and never allowed to forget a real dilemma: you are told that being smart is a wonderful thing, but that it’s imperative to hide your intelligence as if it’s a giant wart on your nose.

Another peculiar message that comes across loud and clear from adults is that you don’t actually own your gifts: society channels intelligence into purposeful personal sacrifice for the greater good. Smart girls are obliged to become nurses or teachers – or other professional helpers, who serve the needs of other people. Doing something personal, like following your bliss (thank-you, J. Campbell) is selfish. I was even told that my “intellectual destiny” was to be a mother who could be really good at helping my children with their homework.

I cannot express how much this pissed me off. It was like being given an around-the-world airline ticket and then told that you can’t use it to fly any farther than Toledo, Ohio.

It is a measure of how wrong adults were about forcing gifted children to “socialize” – relief came in high school by virtue of a gifted program that I was drafted into. At last! Kids like me, just as smart and many much smarter. I made friends with a group of girls who were talented in many different ways; I learned about myself by being with kids like me and didn’t ever have to apologize for my interests, my focus on intellectual activity, my propensity to question everything. My artistic abilities blossomed in the correct environment, and with the encouragement of teachers, I blossomed as a person.

As a young adult, I found the same type of open and welcoming (totally crazy) environment in advertising. The work was cooperative, team-based and competitive. I was never told to hide my intelligence or talent; those attributes were why I was hired. To this day, that special environment remains one of the islands of creativity and personal fulfillment in a dreary landscape of job-jobs.

But – the call of curiosity and exploration took me on to geology and personal art, a duo which often was commented on as “peculiar” because I ought to choose art OR science: no messing with those social and gender boundaries! This perplexity about my interests came from both sides of the equation, as if I were a “traitor” to both. Science versus art is a recent division in human social myopia. Boundaries fall away when one understands that beauty is the underlying connection.

The intersection of man and nature: the old dump.