Autistic artists put their personal struggles on paper

GIANNA VOLPE PHOTO | Artist Alicia Munch with one of her pieces on opening night at Lenz Winery. Flower petals were among the materials Ms. Munch used to create the work.

A unique exhibit of artwork created by autistic and differently abled people is currently on display at Lenz Winery in Cutchogue, thanks to the winery’s partnership with Family Residences and Essential Enterprises Inc., or F.R.E.E.

Through July 31, visitors to Lenz will be able to view and purchase works from either of two collections on display. “Revelations” is a collection of individual artists’ perceptions on varied life themes. “Flags of Hope” reflects inner turmoil and expressions of containing and structuring that turmoil, according to Ed Regensburg, F.R.E.E.’s art therapy director.

“What you’re looking at are the results of people who have worked through layers of emotional conflict, discord and developmental challenges of expression,” Mr. Regensburg said. “It’s psychotherapy through art, not with it. It’s integrated, intense expressionism because of pent-up energy that’s always been kept inside. We’re just channeling it.”

Mr. Regensburg recalled that when he began his work with F.R.E.E., he was introduced to a man named Al, whom he was told couldn’t speak. He said Al didn’t even make eye contact at first but now, four years later, Al sometimes attempts speech, makes eye contact and gives staff members the thumbs up and thumbs down.

“Art therapy gives people a voice,” he said. “Even if they can’t use their own.”

Mr. Regensburg was at the opening “meet the artists” reception on June 22, as were three artists from the program who talked about their works.

“This is grass that grew right on the property,” artist Michael Specht said of the mediums he worked with for a piece made during an art therapy class. “The grass was cut two hours before I went out and picked it.”

Mr. Specht added that he chose a deep blue for the sky because “the sky out there is bluer and you can see the stars at night.”

Supervisor Scott Russell, who also attended opening night, said he hopes F.R.E.E. representatives will sit down with him to discuss organizing similar showcases, perhaps at the new Peconic Community Center on Peconic Lane.

“As a collector of art, I have many works from local artists that have lived in Southold over the years and I don’t have anything as visually stunning or as heartfelt as any of these works,” Mr. Russell said. “These are absolutely amazing to me.”

Manorville resident Dara Gray was the first buyer at the exhibit’s opening reception.

“I just love the colors,” Ms. Gray said, “The way the swirls and vibrant colors offset the black frame. It has a lot to say. It’s like turmoil, but with confidence, and pretty all at the same time.”

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