From knitting to taekwondo; Prue Stevenson pushes the boundaries with her art – helping the Master of Fine Art student explores her diagnosis of Asperger’s Syndrome (Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD).
Stevenson’s masters’ studies have been enabled by a St Vincent de Paul Grant for Students with Disabilities, which gave her access to ClaroRead, a multi-sensory software which supports reading and writing. Here she explains why it meant so much.
“Because my brain is wired differently I’m processing a lot more information, a lot more detail through my sensory perception.
“The software I got through the scholarship is called ClaroRead. I’m the first student in the whole University to get the program.
"I can highlight words on my computer and the computer-generated voice will speak it. That has helped me so much – it means I’ve been able to properly research for the first time in my life, which is pretty awesome.
“I’ve got an exhibition at La Trobe Bundoora at the moment, Expend is part of the university’s acknowledgement of World Autism Awareness Day. It’s about expending energy out of my body, particularly anger, frustration and anxiety. The artwork is based on taekwondo: I put paint on my foot, and I axe kick the wall and that’s how I paint.
“Another artwork came about from my experiences on trams. When I would get on a tram after uni, I was getting hypersensitive, because there are lots of people and sounds. So I found I had to stim (repetitive movement or sounds that are a symptom of ASD). And people would have a bad reaction and would think I was unwell or sick.
“So I started trying to knit on the tram, and I found that the polar-opposite was happening: people were getting really excited – they wanted to know what I was making.
“So I started this knitting project. I thought, what will happen if I knit longer than a scarf? Longer than what’s practical and socially acceptable?
“Because really stimming isn’t socially acceptable yet – but I really want it to be. And knitting is a socially acceptable behaviour and the only difference is that I’m making something, and there’s an object in my hand. So it’s interesting to blur the lines in my art practice.
“This enormous scarf isn’t a practical object, so it says: ‘Are you ok with this?’ So that’s in my exhibition as well, and it’s been made into writing on the wall that says, ‘Embrace It’.
Thanks to St Vincent de Paul
The parish congregation of St Carthage’s Church, Parkville has funded the St Vincent de Paul Grant for Students with Disabilities since 2008. The fund helps about 15 students a year with the purchase of assistive technology.