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Autistic Artist Paints the Colors of Emotion

San Diego-based synesthete Jeremy Sicile-Kira’s first-ever curated exhibition, 'Inner Dimensions,' opens tonight at Space4Art in San Diego.

Jeremy Sicile-Kira is a nonverbal autistic artist with synesthesia. He paints with the colors of emotions: “Color is evident in everything to me,” Sicile-Kira tells The Creators Project via email. “I see people’s emotions translated into color when I look at them.” The artist then transposes these colors into vibrantly chaotic portraits of auras and experiences, a selection of which comprise his first-ever curated art exhibit, Inner Dimensions. The show opens tonight, on the first day of Autism Awareness Week at Space4Art in San Diego. 

Sicile-Kira has long been in the public eye, most notably appearing in an award-winning 2007 episode of MTV’s True Life, “I Have Autism.” Painting, however, is a more recent endeavor. After years of literally dreaming of portraits, paintings, and gallery openings, Sicile-Kira's mother encouraged him to actualize these nighttime musings. Now, the artist works on five-to-six paintings at a time. Some, like his in-progress work Butterflies, are the result of influential experiences, excerpted moments from everyday life. The majority of Sicile-Kira’s work, however, are impressions from those around him. The subjects of these portraits range from the artist’s family—take, for instance, his favorite work in Inner Dimensions, My Mom the Storyteller—to those of the relative strangers Sicile-Kira meets in his studio, online, on Skype, or over FaceTime. 

Sicile-Kira’s show is more than an exhibition of his own talents, however. Appearing at the opening of Autism Awareness Week, it is also the artist’s expression of a larger set of goals. “Truly my dream is about people hearing our story and parents feeling hope so children like me can come out of darkness by finding a way to communicate,” he says. Sicile-Kira identifies as nonverbal, a term not yet part of formal diagnostic criteria but one which applies to individuals who have difficulty with or lack the ability to communicate effectively through speech. Sicile-Kira effectively communicates through assistive technology. Through these means, the artist successfully graduated from high school with a full academic diploma, serves as a youth leader for the Autism Research Institute's Autism Global Initiative, and co-authored the book A Full Life with Autism.

People must, he argues, “realize that we nonverbal people with sensory motor challenges need assistance to discover our talents […] I hope to make a positive impact on the community.” He adds, “I hope that the people who see my exhibit will wonder about what their aura painting would look like.” 

I asked Sicile-Kira what it's like to have the ability to see the essences of people with all the clarity of ROYGBIV. “Frankly, when I see people’s emotions in color, I also feel them,” he says, “When [someone] laughs I see blue. When they are sad, I see red. My favorite color is green, the color of calm.” And the color of happiness? Yellow: “a good color of people to have around me.” 

The artist with his work

Inner Dimensions opens today at Space4Art in San Diego and runs until April 23. See more of Jeremy Sicile-Kira’s work on his website

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