Image description: Head and shoulders shot of Sonia Boue as an adult, holding a vanity mirror over her face. The back of the mirror has been collaged with spliced photographs of Sonia’s face as an adult and child.

I’m delighted to be soft launching my online exhibition for this R&D project, exploring ways of sharing work which suits my neurology.

Origin Story has been published on my website for about 10 days now, and I’ve been slowly sharing the link with some of my contacts before sending out my SM posts yesterday.

I’ve created multiple formats for my exhibition to make it as accessible as I can, whilst also thinking carefully about my own needs as an autistic artist. Conventional templates for how we showcase work are not compatible with my neurology, dictating a certain kind attention-seeking when showing work. These conventions create barriers for me, and I’ve needed to find ways to subvert them. This aspect of my research matters because so many aspects of exhibition are disabling. I want to write about this quite strongly in my project evaluations to ACE.

The pandemic has given our sector pause for reflection, individually we’ve also all probably had to reassess our priorities during this extended hiatus. I know I have, even pivoting my practice to adapt to this strange new reality of ‘living with covid’. It’s not business as usual, and there’s no going back (for me) to what was. I welcome this slewing of skin and I am confident that my project can reach the parts that no other project can, because it is powered by innate autistic navigational means, not despite me being autistic. My project has already generated unexpected outcomes and exceeded expectations.

I’ve always been about producing quality work and leaving a solid online trail. This is my hallmark and I’ve built a career this way quite naturally and without intention. For me it’s about the work first. I put it out there and see what happens without expectation. It’s okay to be quietly confident and self-contained.

I’m no longer willing or able to ask for attention in a performance of ‘neurotypicality’. My project is about autistic unmasking and it’s been a big success on that score. It’s logical and also necessary to my emancipation as an autistic professional to follow through. This moment is about turning the tide .

As Neurophototherapy gently unfurls I simply note and welcome the responses. I’m watchful in all respects, noting also when the work is met with indifference. Knowing who your audiences are (who genuinely values you) is key. I’m so grateful to Arts Council England for supporting me to do this my way.



Image description: Sonia Boue is a white middle aged woman, wearing a black jumper and black rimmed glasses. She has short cropped hair and the photograph shows her using a brush and mirror set which has been collaged with photographs of her face. 

Click for audio file version of this blog

Click for Origin Story – my new online exhibition 

So, somehow it’s June and I’ve just prerecorded my artist’s talk with the fabulous Jennifer Gilbert, founder of the Jennifer Lauren Gallery! Hosted by Disability Arts Online this talk will be streamed to celebrate World Autistic Pride Day on June 18th, with live Q&A to follow. It will have closed captions and BSL interpretation, and has also been a wonderfully affirming and accessible process. I felt completely supported by Jennifer in every aspect of organising and curating the the talk, high professional values really do equal access I often find. Working with known and trusted professionals is also vital.

In fact, this project has been an access dream, in large part due to the superb support of my longtime mentor Miranda Millward, whose collage work is also amazing and can be found @scissorspaperpaste on Instagram.

Together we designed the project around my specific needs, and as longtime collaborators we had a good bank of learning and knowledge to draw on.  Using my innate autistic navigational methods, I’ve worked through each phase of my project intuitively. I’ve used no checklists, and not referred to my project activity plan, because my project is in my mind’s eye. My brain is just not wired for these more conventional methods of working through a plan, and unless the task absolutely requires fine detail, lists and written notes just get in the way. If my projects are well designed I can feel my way through. It’s been exactly as it should be. I’m so grateful for the opportunity to work in this way and also to share my learning with others.

The way Arts Council England ask you to structure an activity plan can feel daunting when you have a brain like mine, but it is vitally important to interrogate a project ahead of submitting an application. I find the activity plan helps reveal the gaps in my thinking, so I understand it as a useful tool in preplanning the work. The trick is to find the format that works for you. I can’t think in a linear way, but I can think in metaphors and I can create mind maps. In this case, as soon as I imagined each task needing to hang on a calendar (like fruits on a tree) I could draw it. It helped me provide a sequence recognisable enough  for linear brains. What seemed impossible became much simpler, and this task does get easier with practice.

I don’t work sequentially, I work circularly, and so each distinct phase of the project (on paper) is (in reality) more fluid, with a great deal of overlap. My project is all the richer for it, and my outcomes have already exceeded expectations. Unexpected events have occurred, and I’ve had the flexibility within my project design to work round them.

I’ve also been on an access journey in preparing my online exhibition Origin Story, making sure it has as many formats as possible for improved accessibility. An experiential learner, I found it important to think it all through and curate it myself, after consulting other examples. I now have a real sense about the ways in which making sound files and writing image descriptions (for example) add layers and texture to the work, and my exhibition feels like a more generous and richer offer because of the access features.  I feel positively evangelical about this!

I’m extremely excited to share some of the fruits of the Neurophototherapy tree in this next phase of the project, which is all about disseminating the work to engender conversations. I do hope you can join us for the talk, and even pop in to my website to see the show!