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Gregory Blackstock: An Anthropologist of the Everyday

By Darold Treffert, MD

Greg Blackstock has never been happier. Since his recent retirement from the Washington Athletic Club, after 25 years as a dishwasher, he has been able to focus his attention on his two loves: drawing and music. In 2003, his remarkable drawings came to the attention of the Garde Rail Gallery in Seattle, Washington, specialists in ‘Outsider Art” and Greg has become a featured artist there. Their website at www.garde-rail.com describes him thus:

“Greg exhibits many of the remarkable traits of the autistic savant; he speaks many languages, is an incredible mimic, and is able to recall events with uncanny precision… It is without doubt in our minds that Gregory Blackstock would be an artist under any circumstance — his autism did not make him become an artist, nor is he an artist because of it… Through his art and his music, Gregory has effectively been able to combat this disability and to meet the challenge with fantastic results… Gregory’s drawings are often large, on several sheets of paper pieced together by Greg with tape and glue. Using pencil, crayon, ink and marker, Gregory depicts insects and baskets with incredible precision, straight lines and test executed without the aid of a straight rule. The detail is minute, shading impeccable.”

A particularly unique and coveted product from Greg’s inventive mind is his Standard Time Chart of the World. Written on a stiff 10 inch square of cardboard in his precise lettering, are all of the countries and states of the 27 world time zones, or 264 countries and 50 states. Set in the center of this square is a rotating dial with the 24 hour clock marked off in 15 minute increments. Twist the dial to have the current time pointing at your location, and then look up the targeted location to see what time is ‘pointing’ to it. A complex problem rendered with striking simplicity. Much more fun (and easier) to use than many calculators.

In addition to being an exceptional artist, Greg enjoys learning music and languages. He plays accordion around town outside of sporting and theater events, trying to match the music to the venue, such as the Husky fight song before the football game, or the “Toreador Song” in front of the Opera House. By listening to records and talking with foreign co-workers, Greg has learned the rudiments of about 12 languages, including reading and writing the Cyrillic alphabet. Native speakers claim his accent is perfect and he also appears to grasp the various complex rules of grammar.

Self-supporting for many years, Greg is responsible for all of his own finances, transportation, entertainment, apartment maintenance and he is especially proud of the creative and distinctive meals he cooks for himself. His carefully written recipes for “Cream of Mustard Soup-quick method” or “Greg’s improved Cream of Spinach Soup” are composed with the same impeccable precision and artistic detail as his drawings.

Greg is thrilled to now be able to spend time on his art, and his imagination has taken amazing leaps. Several local newspaper articles have been written about his artwork and a book featuring his drawings is due to be published in mid-2006. The following provide some links to some of these articles which will provide more information about Greg and his work.

Seattle Weekly: Anthropologist of the Everyday by Andrew Engelson
Seattle Post Intelligencer: Autistic artist brings a methodic intensity to this drawings
The Stranger: All Kinds of Ants
Update: December 4, 2007

An Update on Greg Blackstock

2007 has been a very busy and positive year for Greg Blackstock.  Currently he has his own exhibit at the Garde-Rail Gallery in Seattle. Greg had visited the Windows of Genius: Artwork of the Prodigious Savant in September 2007. You can read more about his very interesting year, and see items in his current exhibit, at http://www.garde-rail.com/artists/greg.html.
Update: October 10, 2006

Greg Blackstock: “I’m famous”

Two important events happened in Greg Blackstock’s life in early October: The publication of his book and a book signing at a formal exhibition of his works at the Garde Rail Gallery in Seattle, Washington. The book has increased interest in his work internationally. “I’m famous”, Greg is quoted as saying in the very favorable review of his work in the Seattle Times. The review describes his work as having “an orderliness that satisfies the pesky drill sergeant who rules our brains — and also a spark of chaos to thrill the soul.” It is delightful art.
Update: June 9, 2006

The Blackstock Collections: Drawings of an Autistic Savant

Gregory Blackstock’s intricate drawings of many of his fascinating ‘collections’ are available now in a book titled: Blackstock Collections: The Drawings of an Autistic Savant. The book is published in a very attractive format by Princeton Architectural Press, New York. The book contains a Foreword by Dr. Treffert, and an introduction by Karen Light-Pina of the Garde Rail Gallery. In addition to the precise drawings of Mr. Blackstock — “an anthropologist of the everyday” — the book describes as well the interesting and busy world of Mr. Blackstock including some of his additional musical and language savant skills, along with massive memory. The book is a fascinating, colorful and informative look at the work, and the world, of Gregory Blackstock.

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For more information, please contact:
Darold A. Treffert, MD
St. Agnes Hospital, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin
Clinical Professor, Department of Psychiatry University of Wisconsin Medical School, Madison
Personal website: www.daroldtreffert.com
E-mail: daroldt@charter.net