Carriage Barn Arts Center member artists Alder and David experienced traumatic accidents leading to brain injuries that changed their trajectories forever. Diagnosed with Savant Syndrome, the two discovered a new ability to paint and create as they never had before. Their striking and passionate abstract paintings are a testament to the healing power of art.
Acquired savant syndrome occurs in previously non-disabled (neurotypical) individuals who suffer a brain, spinal injury or other traumatic central nervous system (CNS) event. After this event, dormant savant skills surface unexpectedly, sometimes at a prodigious level, where few if any such skills were evident before.
There are currently less than 40 known acquired savants in the United States. Crocker and Marchi are founders of the The Artistic Savant Guild, and champion the message that out of any type of physical or mental trauma, creativity can emerge if you open your heart, mind and soul.
I am a tetraplegic, 85% paralyzed, from the chest down, with no use of my fingers. When I awoke in the ICU in mid-2018 after simply tripping, falling and breaking my neck while at the beach on vacation, images and colors began flooding my consciousness and I miraculously had the ability to paint – the beneficiary of Acquired Savant Syndrome. The intensity of my fall and subsequent traumatic brain injury had uncovered latent artistic ability. I started painting a few months later and haven’t stopped since. After trying a few different techniques, today I now utilize acrylic wet and dry brushing to lay down my base mood layer, and then use squeeze bottles to apply my top layer of semi gloss latex paint to create what I consider… symbolic visual adventures inspired by Chaos Theory.
“While our story is unique, we appreciate that people see beyond the accidents and view our art holistically within the context of other abstract expressionists.”
In the art world, you are either defined as “Trained or an Outside Artist”. Very few galleries, curators and critics have ever heard of a third group, Acquired Savant Syndrome, which I am one. Everyone has talent. Others are fortunate to discover what they can do at an early age, while the rest often take a while. For me, I found my skill with the brush after a boating accident. Five years ago, I fractured my back and injured both wrists. A week after the accident, I started dreaming in vivid colors with hands moving paint in a frenetic manner. I woke up and started to paint. I found myself working prodigiously and decided to research how this was possible. I had never touched a paintbrush my entire life.
I was diagnosed by the late savant psychiatrist Dr. Darold Treffert with “Acquired Savant Syndrome” when dormant savant skills emerge after a brain, spinal injury, or disease, and this allows people to perform at a prodigious level, creating an “accidental genius”. I am now among the 300 of his documented cases around the world. As an artist, I paint with three guiding principles: color, texture, and pattern. I take the great contrast in all three to make a single painting from smooth to streaked, squared to rounded, and shimmering crimson to deep blue. I also take inspiration from colors and painting structures I see in my dreams. My process often starts by looking at the negative space. From here, I can plan what I want to compose before taking the colors out of the shelf and lining them up to get a tangible perspective of my dreams. I mainly work on daring acrylic abstract paintings that portray passion and unpredictability.
“Alder and I are connected by more than being savants. Our mission together is to show people how art can heal in many ways.”