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Home > Book News

Natural Pop Artist Jessica Park's Book Offers a Window Into Her Dazzling Work

WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass., June 30 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The dazzling artwork and remarkable life of Jessica Park are featured in the new book, "Exploring Nirvana: The Art of Jessica Park." Park, a nationally recognized artist with autism, is known for her minute attention to detail and vivid mastery of color.

"Exploring Nirvana" includes 86 full color illustrations of Park's creations, as well an introduction by Dr. Oliver Sacks, professor of clinical neurology and psychiatry at Columbia University and a regular contributor to The New Yorker and The New York Review of Books. Clara Clairborne Park, Jessica's mother and the author of two celebrated books chronicling her daughter's journey with autism, contributed one of the essays in the book.

In Park's artwork, Dr. Oliver Sacks has observed, there is reflected "a lifelong quest for meaning." The brilliant color palette and geometry for which Park's work has become known arise out of what has been a lifetime of artistic development and exploration.

The daughter of two Williams College ( faculty, Clara Claiborne Park and David Park, Jessica, her artwork and life have been "the loving subject of two groundbreaking and personal books on autism, beautifully written by her mother." Introduced to the world in 1967's "The Siege: A Family's Journey Into the World of an Autistic Child," written by her mother, Jessica and her nascent artistic abilities were nurtured as a means of connecting with the world.

"Overwhelming interests are characteristic of autism," Jessica's mother Clara says. "Jessy has her own word for these consuming interests, 'enthusiasms,' though she's perfectly willing to call them what they are: obsessions." These "enthusiasms" are instantly recognizable in Park's artwork, as beautifully rendered astronomy, Victorian architecture, and urban skylines.

"Jessy is a natural pop artist; in the singing colors of her acrylics, common objects become both original and beautiful, and autism's stereotyped repetition is transmuted into the artist's exploration of them." Park's focus towards geometry and brilliant color renders the familiar new again but also offers a window into her worldview (

In her artwork, "she has developed her own singularity and identity. More than most artists, Jessy paints almost entirely for herself, not for us." Clara Park's second book, 2001's "Exiting Nirvana: A Daughter's Life with Autism," describes this happy state, and how "if Jessy's painting bespeaks her handicap, it is a handicap not surmounted but transmuted into something rich and strange... In her paintings, reality has been transfigured."

Park, who has worked as a mail clerk at Williams College for more 30 years, has been featured in The New Yorker, The Boston Globe, TIME Magazine, and CBS's Early Show. She received a National Artistic Achievement Award from the Shield Institute in New York City in 2002.

Although she has not had formal training since graduating from Mt. Greylock Regional High School, she was honored with a Doctor of Fine Arts from Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts (MCLA) in 2003. This marked the beginning of the Jessica Park Project, an ongoing collaboration at MCLA to study and promote Park's art.

Published by the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, the book was launched at an exhibition, "The Art and Life of Jessica Park," at Gallery 51 on May 28.

The exhibition, organized by students of MCLA's Advanced Museum Studies class under the direction of Tony Gengarelly, fine and performing arts department chair, displayed Park's original works from every stage of her artistic development.

"Exploring Nirvana" can be ordered from for $19.95.

Founded in 1793, Williams College is the second oldest institution of higher learning in Massachusetts. The college's 2,000 students are taught by a faculty noted for the quality of their teaching and research, and the achievement of academic goals includes active participation of students with faculty in their research. Students' educational experience is enriched by the residential campus environment in Williamstown, Mass., which provides a host of opportunities for interaction with one another and with faculty beyond the classroom. Admission decisions are made regardless of a student's financial ability, and the college provides grants and other assistance to meet the demonstrated needs of all who are admitted.





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