Art Offers Glimpse into Savant “Windows of Genius” | Arts & Culture
Dr. Darold Treffert didn’t set out to be a Hollywood consultant. But as one of the world’s leading authorities on autistic savants and savant syndrome, the Fond du Lac-based psychiatrist and former Superintendent of the Winnebago Mental Health Institute has had media outlets around the world seeking his insight on savants for years.
He encountered his first savant in 1962 while opening the Child-Adolescent Unit at the Winnebago Mental Health Institute in Oshkosh. Since then, he’s worked as a consultant on the movie "Rain Man," written two books on savants, and has been featured everywhere from Oprah to Scientific American Magazine.
On Wednesday, Nov. 30, VSA Wisconsin, a state organization that provides arts programs for people with disabilities, hosted Treffert for a lecture on the rare condition. VSA also featured an art exhibit with works from Treffert’s personal collection, “Windows of Genius: Art of the Prodigious Savant.”
Savant syndrome is found in people with a developmental disability, brain injury or other disease, and is characterized by remarkable skill or ability in art, music, mathematics, or visual-spatial skills that stand in stark contrast to their disability.
"Art, music, mathematics and visual spatial skills all have sort of a pattern recognition quality to them," said Treffert. "There’s a certain symmetry and it’s the rigid structure and pattern recognition that seems to weld those conditions together."
The exhibit features works by prodigious savants including Stephen Wiltshire, Temple Grandin, Gregory Blackstock, Gilles Trehin, Ping Lian Yeak, Amanda LaMunon and others.
Mary Jane Connor, of Madison, came to hear more about the people behind the artwork.
"I’d seen the exhibition and thought it looked amazing and I wanted to learn more about savant syndrome," said Connor.
"Seeing other people’s level of creativity, it’s always amazing what anybody, what everybody can do."
The exhibit “Windows of Genius” can be seen at the VSA Wisconsin Gallery, 1709 Aberg Avenue, through Dec. 31.