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Picturing autism

discovering the face of autism
Elena Hart-Cohen

Have you ever wondered what the face of autism looks like? "Debbie Raisel: Picturing Autism” is on display at SOHO20, a Chelsea Gallery. The show is free and open to the public and runs through June 21 in New York City’s Chelsea gallery neighborhood. Since 1973, SOHO20 has been a gallery promoting the work of women artists and serving the community.

The gallery show presents a collective portrait of the faces, families and global communities impacted by autism, according to the SOHO20 web site - “The exhibition reflects her search to understand what autism looks like across language barriers and cultural divides, while gleaning stories through her travels, over the course of two years, across disparate landscapes. From Astoria, Queens to East Harlem, Alpine New Jersey to Akureyri, Iceland, from Oaxaca, Mexico to Jakarta, Indonesia, Rasiel seeks to highlight the shared physical manifestations of autism against a backdrop of poignant individuality Rasiel’s ongoing project has far reach, but documentation begins in her own home,” adds the New York Daily News recently. “She grounds her work in her kitchen with her son. When in remote areas where she struggled to get her bearings, recognizing signs of autism proved a source of familiarity, a veritable constant. Sociopolitical divisions began to fall away as she connected with the children and their caregivers. The exhibited photographs are an opportunity for the public to feel both a part of and apart from autism.”

According to the SOHO20 Gallery site: “For Rasiel, the large scale of the prints becomes a decisive form of experiential translation, enabling her to visually extend her own intimacy with the subject matter to the viewer. Capturing tense moments, dysregulated facial expressions, and misshapen hands, she exposes a side of the autism spectrum that public awareness campaigns avoid. Through the lens of guarded distance, she encourages the viewer to embrace nonverbal emotive engagement and feel safe with their curiosity.”

Debbie Rasiel is a photographer and art historian, added Rasiel's biography on the SOHO20 Gallery's web site. She has worked for NGO’s in both New York and South Africa. In New York, her work for NGOs and privately funded advocacy organizations has documented the condition of inner-city youths and developmentally disabled adults. In South Africa she spent several years documenting a papermaking poverty relief program and an AIDS orphanage. Her photographs from South Africa are included in a book, “Women on Purpose,” funded by the Ford Foundation. Debbie has also written about and curated exhibitions for other artists, including a book and an exhibit on Dorothea Lange, and has taught workshops in creative expression in both South Africa and New York. She received a B.F.A from the University of Florida, her M.A. from Tufts University and has completed coursework toward a PhD at the City University of New York with a concentration in photography and contemporary criticism. Debbie has had extensive training in digital media at the International Center of Photography. Her photographs are in many collections, both private and public, including Rutgers University, and the University of Johannesburg. She is represented by the SOHO20 Chelsea Gallery in New York City.

For more information, please contact The ongoing photography exhibition runs through June 21, 2014. The opening reception was held last night and their will be an informational “Artist Talk” on Saturday June 7, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Staten Island educators and art enthusiasts, this exhibit educates us about autism, while providing a visual canvas in picturing the disease close-up and personally. No educator should miss this unique, one-of-a-kind photography and print exhibit!