The Other Mike

On December 22, 2015, I published the post, Returning to Mike, that explained a series of occurrences that enabled me to construct a portrait of Mike, my older brother, in a way he had never been portrayed before. Mike is severely autistic, low functioning and has never spoken.

I photographed him on his 40th birthday at one of the Developmental Centers in New York State where they sent those who were housed at Willowbrook State School after it was shut down for massive human rights abuses. It was always difficult to get Mike’s attention. For one, his eyes were not coordinated. One looked in a different direction than the other. But in my photograph, Mike’s left eye was looking right at me!

Photograph: Brother Mike

Brother Mike

Mike giving me attention:

I printed the picture, cut it in half just to make sure he was looking at me.

Photograph: Half Portrait - Mike Looking at Me

Attention

When I brought the half-face up to a mirror, there was my whole brother looking at me… the brother I never had.

Photograph: Mike Looking At Me

Made-Up Brother

This is my brother too:

There are two sides to any coin, so I had to see what the other side of his face revealed.

Half Photo - Mike's Wandering Eye

Mike’s Other Half

Putting them both together forms a monstrous image.

Photomontage: Brother Mike

The Other Mike

Below is my watercolor of my other brother Mike:

Watercolor: Half Portrait, Wall-Eyed Mike

My Other Brother Mike
12″x9″ 140# Cold Pressed Watercolor Block

I like to think I rendered away some of his ‘otherness’ in this work. He is still utterly different, and I don’t understand him, especially after not seeing him for so long, but I know that we are brothers.

6 thoughts on “The Other Mike

  1. My autistic grandson does weird things with his eyes too. My daughter got his vision tested with an eye doctor who has experience with autistic kids. It turns out the lad’s right eye is fine but he only has peripheral vision in his left eye. That explains his strange way of looking out of the corner of his eyes. The way you are documenting your brother’s life is admirable. The more people know about autism the better.

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    • Thank you, Suzanne. My brother’s eyes used to be ambidextrous, so to speak. On occasion one eye would wander and other times it would be the other one. Now, he is in a geriatric facility because, in part he doesn’t see very well. The eye that wanders in the photo has a dense cataract.
      I hope you see some of my early posts about Mike. Most of 2013’s posts were exclusively about him and my relationship with him.
      Thanks again for your comment.
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes, I have looked at some your posts. I don’t know why I haven’t commented before. I guess your posts touched a nerve. Working out how to relate my grandson is an ongoing challenge for me. I will look out for further posts by you and attempt to be more interactive.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Mike, just to say I’m very glad I stumbled across this blog, I don’t have much personal experience of autism but the way that you use your artwork to help you process your understanding of and feelings towards your brother’s condition is utterly fascinating.

    The use of a mirror image here is particularly interesting to me, I have used mirror images in portraits in the past but always for the purpose of taking a “normal” and familiar visage and altering it to the point where it becomes disconcerting and maybe faintly disturbing. Your mirror portraits are very effective and achieve the opposite of this.

    Liked by 1 person

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