When Eric Sadowsky sits at his drawing table, he can often be heard repeating the phrase “Eric Curran Sadowsky is doing a great job drawing, he is doing an excellent job working.” Remaining quietly concentrated on his art for extended periods, Sadowsky may interject with another one of his sayings, “When Sadowsky is done with art class, Sadowsky is going to be eighty and will go on the Worldest Widest Trip!” A man with limited language, he is succinct and to the point in his communications.
Diagnosed with autism at the age of three, Sadowsky grappled with severe communication challenges throughout his adolescence. Long before he could talk, however, he began drawing. His earliest sketches were of animals, including one drawing of a Labrador Retriever swimming in a pool and another of an angry cat with a mouth full of sharp teeth. In nursery school he went through a period of drawing nothing but televisions, over and over. When his parents visited their son’s school, they found the walls of his classroom covered in television drawings. His teacher explained that the other students became fascinated by his depictions and had started copying them. It was at this time that Sadowsky started to channel his repetitive behaviors (a common symptom of autism) into the creation of his first true series.
Sadowsky was raised in the art world. His mother, Mary Clancy, herself a painter, kept her son’s playpen in her studio while she worked on huge, 12-foot and larger paintings. As Sadowsky grew older, he and his mother would draw and paint side by side for hours in the family’s living room. By attending Clancy’s art openings, Sadowsky became familiar with New York City’s art scene.
At the age of eight, Sadowsky started a new series, drawing fruit. Over time, he created thousands of these drawings, perfecting his unique depictions of the objects, and destroying renditions that did not meet his standards. Through his fruit drawings, Sadowsky developed his signature method of contour line drawing; it remains a core component of his work today. Drawing an outline to indicate mass and volume, Sadowsky relies on the symbolic quality of contours instead of light and value to convey an object. Rendered in two dimensions, Sadowsky shows us a bowl of scrambled eggs by presenting a white disc with a yellow, curvy half circle on top. Four rectangles above the eggs, colored red, become bacon. Five strings of green balls are his version of grapes.
At twenty-one, Sadowsky aged out of his education program at the Rebecca School in Manhattan, and his parents struggled to help their son negotiate this transition, which was depicted on NBC News’ Dateline special feature on autism entitled “On the Brink.” Sadowsky finally joined Pure Vision Arts in 2012. Pure Vision Arts is a specialized art studio for people with autism and other developmental disabilities. Sadowsky attends the program five days a week and has developed a cohesive body of pen and ink drawings depicting diverse subjects.
Now 24 years old, food items remain one of Sadowsky’s favorite themes, lending a pop art quality to his art. Rows of brightly colored popsicles, twenty-eight hard boiled eggs, stacks of bright green lettuce and rainbow jelly beans are amongst the many items he enjoys organizing. On occasion, whole food groups are included in the composition. In Drinks, he combines cartons of milk, Gatorade, tea, coffee and orange juice on his page. The objects rarely interact with each other or overlap, but exist in separate curving formations, sometimes curling up or down and out of the page. A fruit bowl or hamburger is never placed in a concrete space like a table, but instead floats on a blank, white background. People are rarely present in these still lifes, but a bite taken out of a popsicle or slice of watermelon hints at their existence in an anthropomorphic reality.
An avid animal lover who worked at a shelter in high school, Sadowsky often incorporates animals into his work. His playful renditions of these creatures are jovial and strange, often displaying huge swaths of pointy teeth or long, protruding tongues. He also finds beauty in everyday, household objects and has created many drawings of vacuum cleaners, Walkie Talkies, elevators, air humidifiers, and shopping carts. Methods of transportation are another frequent theme in Sadowsky’s work, particularly airplanes that he may be planning to use on his “Worldest Widest Trip.” Using his trademark palette of neon and pastel markers, these objects are vibrant and electric.
While Sadowsky’s work is traditionally bright and playful, he intermittently makes pieces that references human emotion. Sadowsky contributes to an ongoing series of crying women which he draws on occasion. The subject is most commonly drawn from the chest up and her features are conveyed without dimensionality through the use of Sadowsky’s signature contours. Rows and rows of tears fall from the women’s eyes, organized into the same straight lines seen in his food and animal compositions. These figures are often accompanied by the dates of holidays and birthdays.
Throughout his life, Sadowsky has used his art to catalogue his thoughts about the world around him. He makes order out of objects he confronts in everyday life, containing and organizing potentially overwhelming stimuli through his art. Sadowsky has managed to make sense of and restrain these snapshots of his life in vibrant and strange patterns. His linear expressions even diverge from their original content becoming formulaic in their patterning.
Celebrated by enthusiastic audiences far and wide, Sadowsky’s exhibition history has expanded during his time at Pure Vision Arts. His work was first exhibited in Personal Space in 2013, a group exhibition at Pure Vision Arts in Manhattan, New York. In 2014, he showed work at Transit on the Spectrum: The Art of Pure Vision at Brooklyn’s New York Transit Museum. That same year his Swans drawing was featured at Public Access: Selections from Pure Vision Arts at The Gallery at Ace Hotel in New York City. He also had work on display at Savant-Garde in December, 2014 at his art studio. In January of 2015, Sadowsky’s work was selected for exhibition at New York City’s 22nd Annual Outsider Art Fair at Center 548 in Manhattan, New York.