Click image above to view video.

A Brush of Giftedness by Elizabeth Michele Cantine with illustrations by Heidi Dong; Quartet Dancers: Dahlia A., Heidi D., Cole H., Dylan T.; Filmed and Edited by Michael Sprengel.

A Brush of Giftedness

Liz Cantine, as a local artist, author and instructor, has used her multifaceted talents to create A Brush of Giftedness. Writing multiple poems about famous artists, not only has she included illustrations by Heidi Dong, a talented artist and student of hers with autism, Cantine has also choreographed dances for her students to accompany each one.

Cantine reads from her book as performers move in sequence. “The main goals of this unique book [are] to expand knowledge about world-acclaimed art and to show that those with autism, Down syndrome, and other challenges do not need to vocalize – the arts validate their volumes of verses. This book highlights the gifts and geniuses of past and present artists. Brush of Giftedness is for those who recognize, appreciate, and inspire the giftedness in themselves and others.”

The video selection above discusses Vincent van Gogh, in the general sense, who, it is hypothesized, suffered mental illness, including epilepsy, Méniére’s disease, schizophrenia, and depression. It has been construed that The Starry Night may have illuminated viewers to his way of seeing, as halos may have surrounded lit objects at night due to swelling in his retinas, coupled with seizures he endured.

Photo Credit: Vincent van Gogh, The Starry Night, 1889, oil on canvas, 29 × 36 1/4″ (73.7 × 92.1 cm). Acquired by MOMA through the Lillie P. Bliss Bequest (by exchange)

Chuck Close is another famed artist who does not allow his paralysis caused by a catastrophic spinal artery collapse, to limit his art making. He has developed elaborate mechanisms for rotating massive canvases, using elevated platforms to assist the artist in reaching optimal positions for painting.

Photo Credit: The New York Times

Many examples of artists overcoming physical and mental obsticles exist. Through Brush, as her own collaborative project, Cantine likewise inspires to not allow limitations come in the way of artistic expression. Her book, A Brush of Giftedness, is an excellent example for incorporating into classroom curriculum and is available online at

Aaron Sheppard, Curator