Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of April 23, 2007
Autistic artist's coming out is the fulfillment of promise
By BILL GLEN
- Photo supplied
Meghan Burnside's painting has a strong religious flavour that reflects her own relationship with God.
"I didn't speak much so I used painting as my first language," Meghan said in an interview. "I would paint things that helped me to connect with different people."
Hilaria McClellan taught Meghan at Holy Trinity High School in the academic support program, where students with certain learning disabilities are put in small groups and taught four core subjects - English, math, social studies and science. The students are immersed in the general student body for all other courses.
McClellan recalls Meghan and her drawings.
"Meghan was very quiet, but I can still hear her voice. She had a great sense of humour. She observed what was around her and every once in awhile she said something. She never spoke up in class but she would speak to me afterwards," McClellan said.
"Even in Grade 10, her artwork was gorgeous, so beautiful. I remember a number of her pieces were amazing. She is quite a sensitive woman."
Jane says she and Kevin simply loved Meghan and did the best they could. They always prayed and tried different things that came to mind.
And then Meghan began to come out of her shell.
"How often do you get to see the hand of God at work?" Jane said.
"To be there to see it happen is a privilege. And miracles aren't really big, loud things. They sort of sneak up on you and afterwards, God touches you on the shoulder and says 'See?'"
A painting of Meghan's hangs in St. Thomas More Parish in Edmonton just inside the church. She gave her painting of St. Boniface to St. Boniface School where she attended junior high.
"I like to paint large images because I found with smaller canvases, I would have trouble keeping within the borders. I would run off the edges and have to get more canvases," Meghan said.
Meghan's life has begun to flourish. She speaks well and has an angelic laugh, but looks to her mother if she doesn't quite understand something. She has an incredibly gentle soul that comes from her relationship with God, Jane said.
"She has a very simple understanding of how life works and how God works. For Meghan, life is living in God. She feels very close to our Blessed Mother and to Jesus. She has a more personal relationship with God because she never had the communication with other people to cloud her vision."
Leonard Wakelam, owner of the Flatt Gallery in Stony Plain, described a painting of Meghan's that sold recently as "striking."
The gallery is currently showing some of Meghan's work until May 21. Prices range from $40 for a small print to upwards of $5,000 for her larger originals. The gallery is donating 20 per cent of each sale to help support the Autism Society of Canada.
Some of Meghan's work carries religious themes. She paints amazing landscapes and detailed wildlife.
Wakelam says they met when Meghan was in the gallery to get some prints made. At the time, the gallery was looking for something a little different.
"The level of talent she has at this early stage is really impressive. She is good right now, but she is going to be wonderful. Her purity of colour and the innocence in her pictures is coming from within. She doesn't use charts or copying," he said.
"She is doing so much when so many people like her might be written off. Meghan has the capability to paint successfully for a living, and she's getting there pretty quick."
Meghan's emergence displays something from which we all might learn a valuable lesson, Jane says.
"I would like to be able to explain to people to be patient and to trust. We can only see what's in front of us - what is right now. We don't see how it all connects," she said.
"If we trust that God knows what he's doing and follow along, we can feel we are cared for and trust in the future."
To view Meghan's work, call Flatt Gallery in the Stony Plain Artisan Centre at 968-1633.
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