Magna Doodle Masterpieces on Display
When viewing an art exhibit, you might expect to see colorful paintings, beautifully carved sculptures or intricate sketches. You probably don’t expect a Magna Doodle.
Going against expectations, “Magnetically Drawn: Art Meets Autism” is currently on display in Hege Library. The art exhibition features drawings on Magna Doodles — those childhood drawing toys — by first-year Gray Stanback.
“Gray shared a newspaper article about an installation he created when he was a prospective student,” said Disabilities Services Coordinator Kim Burke. “Originally, I believe it was part of his senior thesis in high school.
“I wanted to use it in our First Annual Accessibility Day, in part because it creates wonderful dialogue about the nature of different visions of the world. Terry Hammond kindly offered to hang it for us in the library.”
The exhibition, which will be up until Nov. 30, features a wide range of subjects, from dinosaurs to fighter jets. Ultimately, it examines the relationship between art and autism.
Autism is a developmental disorder. People with autism often have challenges with physical, social and language skills.
“I enjoy drawing because it allows me to process my thoughts when words would not work,” Gray said.
His love for drawing goes back to when he was very young, when he used enough paper that his parents wanted to find a way to save money.
“I’ve been using [Magna Doodles] since I was very little,” he said. “My parents got me one as a cost-saving measure, since I was drawing so much I was using lots of paper, but the Magna Doodle was reusable.”
Kim commented on the use of the medium, and the unique effect it has on the viewer.
“Gray’s work represents neurodiversity beautifully,” she said. “The medium — artwork on Magna Doodles — catches our attention,draws us in. Here is a charming window into a world that most of us have never imagined. The enjoyment of his work leads to interesting ideas about how we see each other.”
Kim further elaborated on the importance of the display, and how it can help our awareness as a community and as individuals.
“Many people live on the autism spectrum in our community, and it is important for us to be mindful: We are so quick to judge, to make assumptions, to diminish,” she said. “Some of our students on the spectrum are regularly ignored, even bullied.
“Education — see Gray’s work — is the key to shift our attitudinal lens to acceptance. So many times we think there is something wrong with the person, instead of realizing our systems of belief may be broken.”
Even though the exhibition has an important role to play in educating the community, Gray isn’t accustomed to the spotlight. When asked how it feels to have his work on display, he responded, “Strange. I’m not used to the publicity, and frankly I think I prefer to stay humble.”
The exhibition will only be up until the end of the month, so take a look while you can. You just might learn something.
Story by David Pferdekamper ’12