Meet the father-son duo sharing their disability experiences through art.

Therapy or self-expression? This new art show is both.

Anthony Ptak and his 8-year-old son, Aedan, might seem like an average dad and son.

Meet the Ptaks: Anthony, Aedan, and Jordana. All photos provided by Anthony and used with permission.


But they're more than that — they're also survivors. Anthony is a brain cancer survivor and Aedan has Down syndrome.

They're also artists, having recently launched an inspiring art exhibit together titled "Difference Frequencies," on display through Nov. 28, 2015, at The Creative Center in New York City.

Their show, "Difference Frequencies," is inspired by Anthony and Aedan's experience as father and son living with disability.

A difference frequency occurs when two inaudible sound frequencies are played together, creating a third audible frequency.

Their art show combines Aedan's art (bottom row) with Anthony's (top row).

So while their show is about art, it's also about the deep power of the human connection to create something else entirely beyond themselves.

Anthony was introduced to art as therapy at The Creative Center during his treatment for brain cancer in 2010.

Aedan lays with his dad, Anthony, as Anthony recovers from brain cancer.

When treatment ended, Anthony wasn't willing to walk away from The Creative Center. So he enrolled in their free art classes, which provided him with the opportunity to dabble in everything from creative writing to photography to jewelry, songwriting, and more.

For Aedan, who has limited expressive language, drawing is a form of sense-making.

It allows him to understand his place in the world and the space around him. Both Anthony and his wife, Jordana, suspect Aedan's drawing is both calming and exciting, interesting, and provocative for him.

When Aedan draws, he seems highly aware of the borders of the page. This sparked Anthony's original idea for the "Difference Frequencies" show: Aedan's drawings overlaid on Anthony's prints. But as Anthony said, "Aedan has too much respect for my work to draw on it."

Instead, they decided to produce a set of pieces together.

Anthony, a jazz musician prior to his brain cancer diagnosis, wrote music for the show in real-time interpretation. Each of Anthony's pieces in the show lasts approximately 60 seconds, and each measure lasts roughly six seconds, conceptually representing the expression of a chromosome.

The 21st measure is Anthony's representation of his son's diagnosis. Down syndrome, known by geneticists as trisomy 21, is a genetic disorder caused by three copies of the 21st chromosome.

Aedan's pieces are also very complex.

Society often refers to children with Down syndrome as angels. And Aedan is absolutely beautiful, with almond eyes and soft features.

But through his elaborate, frequently aggressive pieces, Aedan also gives you the opportunity to glimpse who he truly is: a complex person with complex feelings and desires.

Ask anyone in attendance and they'll tell you Aedan and Anthony have truly created songs in the key of life.

“My goals as an artist are to promote acceptance of difference and to design a society which allows for empathy and degrees of freedom despite the constraints we may find ourselves challenged by — whether genetically encoded, or otherwise acquired, in the complexities of our society." — Anthony

And he's done just that. What many may normally interpret as the scribblings of a child show something much more profound when viewed in conjunction with Anthony's art. It's a beautiful difference frequency indeed.

More

Disney has come under fire for problematic portrayals of non-white and non-western cultures in many of its older movies. They aren't the only one, of course, but since their movies are an iconic part of most American kids' childhoods, Disney's messaging holds a lot of power.

Fortunately, that power can be used for good, and Disney can serve as an example to other companies if they learn from their mistakes, account for their misdeeds, and do the right thing going forward. Without getting too many hopes up, it appears that the entertainment giant may have actually done just that with the new Frozen II film.

According to NOW Toronto, the producers of Frozen II have entered into a contract with the Sámi people—the Indigenous people of the Scandinavian regions—to ensure that they portray the culture with respect.

RELATED: This fascinating comic explains why we shouldn't use some Native American designs.

Though there was not a direct portrayal of the Sámi in the first Frozen movie, the choral chant that opens the film was inspired by an ancient Sámi vocal tradition. In addition, the clothing worn by Kristoff closely resembled what a Sámi reindeer herder would wear. The inclusion of these elements of Sámi culture with no context or acknowledgement sparked conversations about cultural appropriation and erasure on social media.

Frozen II features Indigenous culture much more directly, and even addressed the issue of Indigenous erasure. Filmmakers Jennifer Lee and Chris Buck, along with producer Peter Del Vecho, consulted with experts on how to do that respectfully—the experts, of course, being the Sámi people themselves.

Sámi leaders met with Disney producer Peter Del Vecho in September 2019.Sámediggi Sametinget/Flickr

The Sámi parliaments of Norway, Sweden and Finland, and the non-governmental Saami Council reached out to the filmmakers when they found out their culture would be highlighted in the film. They formed a Sámi expert advisory group, called Verddet, to assist filmmakers in with how to accurately and respectfully portray Sámi culture, history, and society.

In a contract signed by Walt Disney Animation Studios and Sámi leaders, the Sámi stated their position that "their collective and individual culture, including aesthetic elements, music, language, stories, histories, and other traditional cultural expressions are property that belong to the Sámi," and "that to adequately respect the rights that the Sámi have to and in their culture, it is necessary to ensure sensitivity, allow for free, prior, and informed consent, and ensure that adequate benefit sharing is employed."

RELATED: This aboriginal Australian used kindness and tea to trump the racism he overheard.

Disney agreed to work with the advisory group, to produce a version of Frozen II in one Sámi language, as well as to "pursue cross-learning opportunities" and "arrange for contributions back to the Sámi society."

Anne Lájla Utsi, managing director at the International Sámi Film Institute, was part of the Verddet advisory group. She told NOW, "This is a good example of how a big, international company like Disney acknowledges the fact that we own our own culture and stories. It hasn't happened before."

"Disney's team really wanted to make it right," said Utsi. "They didn't want to make any mistakes or hurt anybody. We felt that they took it seriously. And the film shows that. We in Verddet are truly proud of this collaboration."

Sounds like you've done well this time, Disney. Let's hope such cultural sensitivity and collaboration continues, and that other filmmakers and production companies will follow suit.

Culture

Gerrymandering is a funny word, isn't it? Did you know that it's actually a mashup of the name "Gerry" and the word "salamander"? Apparently, in 1812, Massachusetts governor Elbridge Gerry had a new voting district drawn that seemed to favor his party. On a map, the district looked like a salamander, and a Boston paper published it with the title The GerryMander.

That tidbit of absurdity seems rather tame compared to an entire alphabet made from redrawn voting districts a century later, and yet here we are. God bless America.

Keep Reading Show less
Democracy
Facebook / Maverick Austin

Your first period is always a weird one. You know it's going to happen eventually, but you're not always expecting it. One day, everything is normal, then BAM. Puberty hits you in a way you can't ignore.

One dad is getting attention for the incredibly supportive way he handled his daughter's first period. "So today I got 'The Call,'" Maverick Austin started out a Facebook post that has now gone viral.

The only thing is, Austin didn't know he got "the call." His 13-year-old thought she pooped her pants. At that age, your body makes no sense whatsoever. It's a miracle every time you even think you know what's going on.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Wikipedia

Women in country music are fighting to be heard. Literally. A study found that between 2000 and 2018, the amount of country songs on the radio by women had fallen by 66%. In 2018, just 11.3% of country songs on the radio were by women. The statistics don't exist in a vacuum. There are misogynistic attitudes behind them. Anyone remember the time radio consultant Keith Hill compared country radio stations to a salad, saying male artists are the lettuce and women are "the tomatoes of our salad"...? Air play of female country artists fell from 19% of songs on the radio to 10.4% of songs on the radio in the three years after he said that.

Not everyone thinks that women are tomatoes. This year's CMA Awards celebrated women, and Sugarland's Jennifer Nettles saw the opportunity to bring awareness to this issue and "inspire conversation about country music's need to play more women artists on radio and play listings," as Nettles put it on her Instagram. She did it in a uniquely feminine way – by making a fashion statement that also made a statement-statement.

Keep Reading Show less
popular