More

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.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Heather Mount on Unsplash

Actions speak far louder than words.

It never fails. After a tragic mass shooting, social media is filled with posts offering thoughts and prayers. Politicians give long-winded speeches on the chamber floor or at press conferences asking Americans to do the thing they’ve been repeatedly trained to do after tragedy: offer heartfelt thoughts and prayers. When no real solution or plan of action is put forth to stop these senseless incidents from occurring so frequently in a country that considers itself a world leader, one has to wonder when we will be honest with ourselves about that very intangible automatic phrase.

Comedian Anthony Jeselnik brilliantly summed up what "thoughts and prayers" truly mean. In a 1.5-minute clip, Jeselnik talks about victims' priorities being that of survival and not wondering if they’re trending at that moment. The crowd laughs as he mimics the actions of well-meaning social media users offering thoughts and prayers after another mass shooting. He goes on to explain how the act of performatively offering thoughts and prayers to victims and their families really pulls the focus onto the author of the social media post and away from the event. In the short clip he expertly expresses how being performative on social media doesn’t typically equate to action that will help victims or enact long-term change.

Of course, this isn’t to say that thoughts and prayers aren’t welcomed or shouldn’t be shared. According to Rabbi Jack Moline "prayer without action is just noise." In a world where mass shootings are so common that a video clip from 2015 is still relevant, it's clear that more than thoughts and prayers are needed. It's important to examine what you’re doing outside of offering thoughts and prayers on social media. In another several years, hopefully this video clip won’t be as relevant, but at this rate it’s hard to see it any differently.

Joy

50-years ago they trade a grilled cheese for a painting. Now it's worth a small fortune.

Irene and Tony Demas regularly traded food at their restaurant in exchange for crafts. It paid off big time.

Photo by Gio Bartlett on Unsplash

Painting traded for grilled cheese worth thousands.

The grilled cheese at Irene and Tony Demas’ restaurant was truly something special. The combination of freshly baked artisan bread and 5-year-old cheddar was enough to make anyone’s mouth water, but no one was nearly as devoted to the item as the restaurant’s regular, John Kinnear.

Kinnear loved the London, Ontario restaurant's grilled cheese so much that he ordered it every single day, though he wouldn’t always pay for it in cash. The Demases were well known for bartering their food in exchange for odds and ends from local craftspeople and merchants.

“Everyone supported everyone back then,” Irene told the Guardian, saying that the couple would often trade free soup and a sandwich for fresh flowers. Two different kinds of nourishment, you might say.

And so, in the 1970s the Demases made a deal with Kinnear that he could pay them for his grilled cheese sandwiches with artwork. Being a painter himself and part of an art community, Kinnear would never run out of that currency.

Little did Kinnear—or anyone—know, eventually he would give the Demases a painting worth an entire lifetime's supply of grilled cheeses. And then some.

Keep Reading Show less