Opening Reception | Friday, August 24 | 6 – 8 pm
Exhibition Dates | August 24 – September 28

The Edwardsville Arts Center is presenting an art exhibit titled “Persistent Pattern” by Michigan artist Joseph Sim with an opening reception for the artist August 24 from 6 to 8 p.m. The exhibit will run until September 28. The artist mixes unusual materials with traditional approaches to making art. Works include chalk pastel drawings on thin sheets of aluminum. The artist reveals how the “added filter” of dyslexia aids in his approach and that it is common in the visual arts.

Joseph Sim is a former resident of Edwardsville where his mother, Patricia, still resides. He is a graduate of Edwardsville High School class of 1981. He studied printmaking, drawing and painting at Illinois State University and completed a Masters of Fine Arts degree at Cranbrook Academy of Art in the Detroit area. He is currently adjunct professor in art and humanities at Oakland Community College in Royal Oak, Michigan.

The works presented are idiosyncratic explorations into the unconscious mind that have at its roots in a lasting respect for the American landscape tradition. The paintings and drawings utilize pattern arrays, replacing familiar landscape forms with new pathways into the unconscious mind. The artist uses paint and chalk pastel to tease subtle visual movement from an unlikely art material, aluminum.

“I’m not the first artist to ever draw or paint on aluminum. But it is definitely an untraditional surface to work on – and unforgiving,” Sim reveals. “The sheets are thin and damage easily. Any bump or blemish on the backing support telegraphs through to the surface. It can definitely break your spirit and your wallet if you are not careful.”

American artists Robert Rauschenberg and Keith Haring where among many who found the usual properties of the aluminum surface a compelling challenge to make art.

“Yes, I have my art heroes. For me as a young printmaker at ISU and Cranbrook, Rauschenberg was god. Then the work of Cy Twombly and Jackson Pollack showed me that an artist can develop a map to the unconscious. But as a dyslexic, my greatest hero is the American master, Chuck Close. His ability to cope with a persistent form of dyslexia, and then a physically debilitating paralysis remains a powerful inspiration.”

Chuck Close, widely considered one the most important living artists, is very open about his lifelong struggle with dyslexia. He also was rendered a quadriplegic after a rare arterial collapse to his spine at the age of 48. He relies on a wheelchair and has drastically limited movement in his arms, painting with brushes he can no longer hold strapped onto his hand.

When asked about his personal struggle with dyslexia, Sim shrugged and laughed. “Yeah, that’s me, the dyslexic. Can’t you tell? Most of us hide it well with all sorts of coping strategies. But it doesn’t mean you’re stupid, although there were times I convinced myself I was.”

Dyslexia is a learning disorder that affects the portion of the brain that processes the identification, recognition and pronunciation of words. Dyslexia is not related to low I.Q. or related forms of mental disabilities. Most commonly dyslexia affects the reading and writing ability of developing children and persists into adulthood.

“It was just always that ‘thing’ I had. When it came to any display of reading or writing, it was really frustrating and embarrassing. And it took me a long time to come to realize it. It wasn’t really identified until I was in my mid-30s.”

“Since then, research and discussions with other artists has led me to the conclusion that the art world is disproportionally populated by artists with undiagnosed forms of dyslexia. That may sound surprising, but it is pretty easy to spot. If you ask me, it’s likely 30 to 40 percent of visual artists.”

“I believe the visual arts had always been that safe place where children who unwittingly struggled with dyslexia often gravitated. So, like many others with dyslexia, I became good at art. And in art, that ‘thing’ (dyslexia) became an ally, allowing me to see and understand the world differently.”

Childhood dyslexia researcher and advocate, Dr. Sally Shaywitz, professor of pediatrics at Yale University School of Medicine, has provided statistical conclusions that 20 percent of school age children in the United States suffer from dyslexia, with 12 percent for boys and 8 percent for girls. It can be easily identified by trained educators. Recently developed reading programs individualize strategies to strengthen reading ability in affected children with very good long term results.

“It’s just plain sad to see how school art programs around the country have been so severely reduced or eliminated. As a child, I found a good strategy to cope with my learning disability in art classes. I became a visual thinker who mastered complex visual puzzles and problems. The good readers were the stars in the class rooms of my youth, but I was the star in the art room. Now, where will the dyslexic kids go to go to become stars?”

“How do I spot dyslexia in an artist? I don’t like ‘outing’ anyone, but just as in poker, there are ‘tells’. And it’s never just one. The dyslexic artist may read very little, but may have lots of books, especially with good pictures. She may be highly articulate, but when she writes anything down it is as if by a child. His formative ideas may seem totally ridiculous, but when executed, totally brilliant. Paradoxically, they may always want to go back to school, or have numerous academic degrees in art. I have three, but I know artists with more than that.”

“Is this work about dyslexia? Yes and no. We all see the world through our own complex filters; those deep in our bodies and those embedded in our shared culture. I have an added filter, dyslexia. Good or bad, it quietly informs everything I see. And it’s comforting that I’m not alone in that.”