Trent Altman will be the Kentucky Arts Council’s featured artist during June 2015. We asked his parent and manager, Dr. Jackie Marquette, and companion and art facilitator, Rachel Whitehorse, to share some thoughts about his artwork and his extensive career as we close Autism Awareness Month and look forward to his featured artist month in June.
I was invited by the Kentucky Arts Council to write about Trent Altman, accomplished visual artist and member of the Kentucky Crafted Program since 2003. It was my pleasure to accept this opportunity. Trent is my middle adult son and he has autism. Trent has two brothers, Todd and Travis.
The month of April was Autism Awareness Month, and although Trent has autism, he has evolved over the years into an accomplished abstract expressionistic artist. The emphasis surrounding Autism Awareness Month is to influence the public’s understanding of the needs and challenges of this group and their families. The purpose is to promote acceptance and inclusion throughout all areas of society – educational, employment, medical, and our communities. While much of the focus is on individual supports, they are sometimes inadequate or unavailable, causing a wide gap of tremendous need. Additionally, I believe it is important that we focus on the development of their best strengths, interests and pursuance of their exceptional talents all within the realm of “supports and acceptance.” The journey for Trent and our family has not been easy, but by arranging for supports and watching Trent achieve his potential and overall emotional well-being, it has been well worth it. I would not have traded it for the world.
In 2012, Altman’s painting, “An Abstract Garden II,” was chosen by the United Nations for a stamp. One million stamps were printed and sold around the world to raise global awareness about autism. Trent was one of two artists with autism chosen from the United States to participate. We were grateful that the arts council awarded Trent a grant to cover some travel expenses so he could attend the United Nations ceremony and receive his award.
Also in 2012, Trent received the Strokes of Genius (SOG) Inc. artist achievement award. “His paintings are beyond bold and dramatic. Altman’s use of multiple layers, and his distinctive style result in a monumental flow of intimately muted colors and three dimensional textures on canvas,” writes Dr. Rosa Martinez, President of Strokes of Genius. Since then, Dr. Martinez has represented Trent as an artist to exhibitions in New York City. Recently, Trent had an exhibition at the Port Authority in New York from December 2014 to January 2015.
To complete that amazing year, Valerie Trimble with Kentucky Educational Television produced a documentary, “Art for Expression,” featuring Trent and his art making. In 2013, this film was nominated for an EMMY by the National Academy of Television Arts & Sciences. In 2014, the documentary was accepted and screened at the Golden Door Film Festival in Jersey City, New Jersey. A collector who purchased five of Trent’s paintings for his new upscale apartment complex in Nashville sponsored the trip for Trent to attend the festival.
In 2013, Trent received the International Autistic People’s Award for visual artist out of applicants from 17 countries. Trent, me and his step dad traveled to British Columbia to receive the award, attend the red carpet ceremony and take part in the arts festival. Later, Trent was honored and appointed the American Ambassador for Autism through ANCA, Naturally Autistic organization. We are sincerely appreciative to everyone who made it possible for Trent to attend the ceremonies and festival. Several of Trent’s art collectors and fans from Louisville purchased paintings or provided a sponsorship that enabled him to make the trip. Dick Wilson, Senior Vice President Investments, Morgan Stanley and Dr. Tami Cassis of Cassis Dermatology & Aesthetics Center were two sponsors among many.
For the past two years, Trent has been represented as an artist in Naples, Florida, by the Sweet Art Gallery. He has captivated art collectors and buyers of his paintings.
Most excitingly, this week we signed a contract with Agora Art Gallery to represent Trent Altman and his art for the next two years in New York. We are thrilled for Trent to have this opportunity. Agora Art Gallery is one of six best contemporary art galleries in the city.
Even with Trent’s talent, it can only happen with supports. Rachel Whitehorse is Trent’s companion and has lived with Trent now for two years. She also is Trent’s art facilitator and provides support so Trent can have the opportunity to paint daily in his art studio, Art Sanctuary in Louisville. She also assists him in connecting to friendships and community settings. Rachel travels with Trent and attends all art receptions with him.
Because of Trent’s autism, he does have challenges in verbal communication, yet he has no limitation in self expression in making his art. Through many hours of Rachel’s observation, she gained unique insight. She provides an interpretation of Trent’s emotions during the process of his art making.
Unspoken Words and Emotions Expressed
“While considering many different color options, the choice is hard for me, but I enjoy it. After choosing the right color, I wait impatiently to begin. When it’s just right, I feel compelled to start. Taking a deep breath, I figure the right place to begin my brush strokes, swiping the canvas as my voice rumbles with excitement. I begin to sing. While scraping the jagged surface, I get more excited from one moment to another until my canvas has been completely painted and/or scraped to my expectations. Taking a moment to calm myself from start to finish, I want to immediately start again.”
This is Trent’s emotions exposed and unspoken words as interpreted by Rachel Whitehorse.
Rachel explains, “This is my interpretation of Trent’s approach to the canvas. We all know actions speak louder than words. As his art facilitator, I get to see his art blossom into the wonderful pieces they become. I am honored that I’m able to do so. People ask me often about his autism and how he paints. This is how I see it. When he walks through the threshold of the studio door, his autism is left behind, and he emerges into the artist within and creates to heart’s content.”
Trent Altman, artist
Dr. Jackie Marquette, parent and art manager
Rachel Whitehorse, companion and art facilitator