I have always considered originality to be a very important in creating art. Since launching my art career in 1976, I worked to be original and distinctive in my artistic undertakings. Originality has also played an important role in many of the neurologic clinical and research projects that I have undertaken.
Where did my fixation on originality come from? This question recently came to my mind in reference to comments made by a legend in contemporary art, Ivan Karp, who said of my art: “So original, I’ve never seen any art work like this before.”
The answer lies in my early childhood. There is “No Exit” from one’s childhood.
I grew up in Toronto, Canada, in the 1950’s, on one-block long Rowland Street. This was in an immigrant neighborhood—dominated by arrivals from Malta. We lived in an attached, two-story home.
Our family finances were extremely difficult. My father worked two full-time jobs. My mother took in sewing jobs to do at home. With my sister and parents, we lived in the two-room first floor. The second floor was rented out to a family of four. The attic room was rented out to another person. (The second floor and attic residents needed to use one bathroom for all of their needs, including washing dishes and laundry—there was no kitchen.)
During my entire childhood I suffered from protein malnutrition. One did not have to go to Africa to experience deprivation—it was doing well in Canada.
Needless to say, there were no funds for toys. But, as a child, one must play. I would go down into the basement, find discarded materials, and create my own toys. Ergo—originality.