By Thomas Shaner
My collages remember the moments of the past through the fragments and images of family photos. Since my father passed away in 2013 and my mother passed away in 2018, it has been difficult to process the grief that comes with the loss of a parent. These pictures are about my father who was a school guidance counselor, my mother who worked as a public defender and my brother John. My joke was always because my father was a counselor and my mom was a lawyer, I could not get in trouble. These collages serve as a narrative of my life living in a family unit.
I have been an artist for 23 years now, with very great support from my parents. They helped me through my struggles with dealing with my disabilities as a person with autism. I graduated college in 2003 with an art degree from Southeast Missouri State University. These collages work to thank and remember my parents for their support.
At Arkansas State University, I got into the Master of Art program in 2004. It only lasted one semester, but one of the things I went to do was collage; it was something I had wanted to do for a while. I never got to do it. The professors wanted me to do realism; I was more into surrealism and the abstract. These five paintings are the work I really wanted to do but was not encouraged to do during my time at the university.
The fragments of the images in my paintings represent the fragments of a glass ceiling that has been shattered, the glass ceiling that says you cannot do that thing because you are disabled with autism. I have two college degrees and live on my own. That is proof you can do it despite society’s ableism.
I am a champion for disabilities rights, the author of the children’s book “The Adventures of Pizza Dog” and the muralist of Burrito-Ville. I did the cartoons and was the cartoonist for the Arrow from 1999-2003. Through my work, I hope my mother and father will be remembered as kind and thoughtful, as they supported the arts.