UNL Graphic Design
Capstone 2021



an artists approach to understanding autism.


my project “masked” initially came from wanting to understand more about myself.
the research began with what i knew about mental health and illness, and then moved towards how i viewed myself and what that could mean for my health and well being.

autism is a developmental disorder that affects social interaction and connections by restricted and repetitive behaviors. autism is also genetic. i have a brother, jack, that is over a decade older than me and was diagnosed with autism at a young age. he is non-verbal and uses writing to display letters and sometimes words. although he has a joyful expression on his face, he does not always feel joy. this is an example of masking. through my life i’ve always wondered if i was autistic as well.

masking is a trauma response used to describe neurodiverse individuals who seek to hide or minimize their autism traits to fit in with the neurotypical world. individuals with autism, especially ones who have a history of trauma, frequently feel they need to mask their ASD traits in order to fit in or appear less autistic.

the images express how emotion is a mask that we put on our faces and don’t always resemble how we truly feel. the images were painted on glass for the viewer to be able to see themselves in the emotions displayed, almost like viewing yourself from another perspective. the scene includes a comforting place with items that hold meaning. this place is to be seen as the autism spectrum. the spectrum should be seen as a circle that encapsulates multiple characteristics that are what make an autistic person autistic. characteristics that make up an autistic person could be any of the following:

hyper-fixation                                          non-verbal
epilepsy                                                     GI tract problems
GI tract problems
feeding                                                      sleep disturbance
attention-deficit/hyperactivity          anxiety
depression                                               repetitive behaviors
repetitive behaviors
obsessive compulsive disorder

the idea that autistic people can be "more" or "less" autistic is incorrect. you are either on the spectrum, or you are not. neither is bad or good.

whether or not the viewer is autistic, almost everyone can relate to “putting on a face” when the time calls for it. the next time you see someone that is expressing something you may view as odd for the time/place/setting, think to yourself that there is more going on behind their mask.

to see my process and how I got here visit https://app.milanote.com/1L6FtW10XJdW8r?p=iZfdj69ZABH.


I know noble accents
And lucid, inescapable rhythms;
But I know, too,
That the blackbird is involved
In what I know.

Wallace Stevens
Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Blackbird