December 5, 2012 by Thomas Pluck
It takes a brave person to bare all; we all wear layers of masks, and some people you never truly know. This is a glimpse into the mind of an artist with autism and synesthesia, and explains how she sees the world through frank writing and beautiful paintings and digital art. It explores what outsiders in our culture do to survive, how we learn to interact with people who tilt their heads and consider us as one might a strange dog.
Anie Knipping is my neighbor, and it took some time before we said more than the nervous hellos that pass for conversation in an apartment complex. I wore my Venture Bros. Order of the Triad t-shirt while doing laundry, she recognized it, and two pilgrims from the nerdworld began speaking their common tongue. I had known she was an artist, and that she led community projects such as the local garden for seniors in our building, but hadn’t struck up a conversation or seen her work before. I was very pleasantly surprised, and I’m glad she reached out.Despite the “Tommy Salami” web presence and boisterous demeanor, I am an extremely shy person who does not make friends easily.
So I found much of this book refreshingly familiar. She goes into detail about how she used online social games to adjust to society, and explore what selves she wanted to share. The art is truly gorgeous and unique, from the synesthesia overlays that mimic how she experiences the world, to the volcanic fantasy dreamworlds she puts to canvas from her imagination. It is not so much indulgent as deeply detailed, and I was delighted to learn that the book is used to help children with autistic spectrum disorders to understand that they are not alone in experiencing reality differently than the norm. Reading this will peel away the calluses you’ve formed that deaden your feelings to the wonderful and bizarre world we live in. You’ll understand what it is like to navigate the loud, bright and rambunctious world with a surplus of empathy, what it is like to be born at age 13, and how to taste the weather and see music.