A World Transformed: The Art of Jessica Park (MCLA 2014) is the most recent publication by the Jessica Park Project at Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts. Written by Tony Gengarelly, Ph.D., MCLA Professor Emeritus of Art History and Museum Studies, this forty-eight page art biography in a beautiful hard cover edition tells the story of Jessica Park, an artist with an unusual ability. The book is intended for young readers, but can be enjoyed by everyone.
Jessica’s Park’s lifelong struggle with autism has been transformed through her remarkable art. When she is making one of her signature rainbow-colored paintings, Jessica’s autism becomes part of her engine of creativity, her “disability” becomes an ability. Colors and shapes organize her world and inspire her paintings. Personal “enthusiasms” motivate her sensibility. Her sense of composition, drawing skill, and attention to detail help to realize her intentions. Art and autism work together to form a unique vision, which this compelling narrative presents through many images of Jessica’s work, along with family photographs and insightful illustrations by Danielle Christensen (MCLA 2011). Dale Borman Fink, Ph.D., MCLA Professor of Education, is the book’s editor. Dr. Pamala Rogers, Director of the Shield Institute Pure Vision Arts Studio, has contributed a compelling Foreword. For many, Jessica Park is hope, an artist who has changed her life.
Prof. Gengarelly has given us a gift in this book, providing a rich, full understanding of Jessica Park and her art. As Gengarelly makes clear, the fact that Park has autism doesn't define her or her art, but it IS integral to a full understanding of her powerful artistic voice. Never slipping into the stereotypes that so often afflict the analysis of artists with so-called "disabilities," Prof. Gengarelly shows us how Park has taken what would typically be seen as insurmountable obstacles and turned them to her advantage.
The title of this book, A World Transformed, gives an expectation that something unusual and interesting will be found inside. To me, the transformation focuses on three major areas: the transformation of Jessica’s subjects in her paintings; the transformation in the life of a person with autism; and the transformative effect the paintings have on the viewer.