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.
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.
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.
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.