Autistic artist's works on display

By Melody Chen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Mon, Jul 28, 2003 - Page 2

Artist Lin Yu-hsien's (林育賢) mother gave him a lightbulb as a gift when he was in the primary school. Since then, Lin's passion for lightbulbs never subsided and they appear as a major theme in his works.

The work of Lin, a 20-year-old autistic boy, is currently on display in the Taipei County Government Building. The month-long exhibition is running until Aug. 15.

In one of his paintings, he portrayed a tree devastated by howling winds in a typhoon at night.

Deprived of all its leaves, the tree is left with three giant lightbulbs at its top and on both sides. In the trunk of the tree is a hole, where a bird tends its glowing eggs. Around the tree, other birds swirl among other flying objects. Compared to the chaos outside the tree, the scene in the hole spelled peace.

"Like lightbulbs, the eggs glow. Lightbulbs gave me a feeling of warmth and safety," Lin said.

Lin, who was diagnosed with autism when he was 4, loved lightbulbs so much that he wrote an 80-page paper on them.

This May, Lin's art works appeared in an exhibition held in the National Tsing Hua University in Hsinchu. In the exhibition, Lin met Cecilia Lee (李靜娟), a manager from Philips Electronics Industries Taiwan Ltd.

Lee was amazed after reading Lin's paper on lightbulbs. "It was a very good paper. One of our designers said Lin understood many basics about lightbulbs," Lee said.

Lee said Lin taught himself a lot about the technical aspects of lightbulbs by comparing various types.

"We are greatly moved by his enthusiasm for lightbulbs," said Lee.

Touched by Lin's passion for bulbs, Philips Taiwan Ltd volunteered to sponsor Lin's arts exhibition in Taipei County Government Building.

To collect lightbulbs, Lin would ask friends to give him their broken bulbs. He also bought a lot of them.

Lee Yu-feng (李玉鳳), Lin's mother, said her son was very thrifty.

"But he never hesitated to spend money when buying bulbs," Lee Yu-feng said.

Lee Yu-feng said Lin's kindergarten teacher suggested that she take her son to see a doctor when Lin was 4.

"Lin's teacher told me Lin ran to the flag pole every morning when the flag was raised. He wanted to see the flag rising to the top of the pole," Lee Yu-feng said.

Suspecting Lin might be autistic, Lin's teacher recommended Lin's parents to bring him to the National Taiwan University Hospital, which has a mental-treatment center for children.

When doctors confirmed Lin was autistic, his parents were frustrated. "We did not know how to bring him up at all," Lee Yu-feng said.

Since then, Lin received pre-primary school therapy for autistic children in the university hospital every week.

"He loved flowers [as a child]. After each treatment in the hospital, I bought him a flower on our way home. He was also into eating noodles," said the mother.

Lin said he remembered each bowl of noodles cost NT$15 when he was a child.

"He also loved to look at [electric] fans. Whenever a fan was turned on, his attention stuck to the fan. He would stop whatever he was doing to watch the fan," Lee Yu-feng said.

When it rained, Lin would be very still in order to watch the dripping raindrops. "These types of behavior are typical of autistic children," Lin's mother said.

Lee Yu-feng said as the mother of an autistic child, what worried her most was Lin's confidence in building healthy relationships with his classmates.

"He was always worried about being rejected by his classmates. Perhaps it was because his ability to express himself was not good enough or he expressed himself incorrectly," Lin's mother said.

When his classmates said something to him, Lin could not properly distinguish between teasing and criticism, said his mother.

When Lin was in junior high school, three girls in his class constantly bullied him. "They spit gum on him when he passed downstairs," Lin's mother recalled.

When Lin was a third grader in the primary school, an art teacher discovered his talent and began to teach him how to draw.

Lin is now a student at the Chin Min College's Department of Visual Communication Design.

In his current exhibition was a work named A Snowy County in the Subtropical Zone.

It was a room-sized three-dimensional work illustrating a dark sky lit with the moon and stars and a group of adults and children walking on the streets, which were covered with snow.

When asked why a subtropical country was snowy, Lin said the snow represented a state of mind.

"In the modern world, many people make friends because they can take advantage of each other. Such friendship is not sincere," Lin said.

Lin said he wanted to be an animator.

Chen Hsiu-fong (陳秀鳳), director of Taipei County Autistic Service Association, said it is difficult for autistic people to find jobs because they tend to have behavioral problems.

"Companies would rather hire the mentally retarded than autistic people because the former are more stable in terms of their emotions," Chen said.

"Autistic children's parents do not expect them to find well-paying jobs. They only wish their children can have stable jobs to support themselves," Chen said.