What do California Gov. Gavin Newsom, British author Sally Gardner and Twitter’s logo designer Martin Grasser have in common?
As individuals with dyslexia, they each have a unique way of seeing the world, and their creative endeavors are part of a new art exhibition at Arion Press in the Presidio.
Titled Dyslexic Dictionary, the show opened Saturday, bringing together the work of an eclectic set of creatives and crowd-sourced artwork. Part of National Dyslexia Awareness Month, it aims to rewrite the narrative around the condition—which many think of as an impediment to reading comprehension but which Gil Gershoni, the exhibition’s executive producer, likens to a superpower.
“Dyslexia and literature is almost oil and water, right?” said Gershoni, the creative director of Gershoni Creative and founder of the Dyslexic Design Thinking initiative. “But we figure, what if we asked artists from around the world to take a word, a letter, a poem, book and visualize it through their—not disability—but through their ‘hyper-ability’?”
“We're sort of dynamiting what text is, and the explosion is all of this creativity and this expansion of the imagination,” added Arion Press Curator-in-Residence Tamsin Smith, who curated the Dyslexic Dictionary exhibition.
The resulting exhibition showcases a range of responses to typefaces and text.
Twitter logo designer Martin Grasser created a color-coded alphabet called Color Dot Font, where letters are replaced by colored circles. The font can be downloaded from Grasser’s website and used on any computer operating system to turn a sheet of text into a colorful array of dots.
San Francisco-based artist Adam Feibelman’s scotopic sensitivity syndrome causes text to “vibrate or shake or shimmy” before his eyes, like TV static. But it also aids him in the creation of extremely intricate, high-contrast pieces of hand-cut, black-and-white paper.
Author Sally Gardner wrote a striking poem articulating her struggles with language as a dyslexic writer; a recorded version of Gardner reading the piece can be viewed on your mobile phone after scanning a QR code. And students from all over the world sent in postcards illustrating what dyslexia means to them.
Even Gov. Gavin Newsom has a contribution in the show: a video interview discussing his children’s book, Ben and Emma's Big Hit, which was inspired by the governor’s own reading struggles growing up with dyslexia.
In the end, Gershoni and Smith want Dyslexic Dictionary to showcase the multifaceted nature and diverse range of dyslexic creative thinking.
“To think that dyslexia is a single mindset or a single diagnosis is a misunderstanding of how the human brain works,” Gershoni said. “A dictionary is never about a single definition. It's always about multi-definitions.”
Correction: An earlier version of this story misidentified the curator and the executive producer of the "Dyslexic Dictionary" exhibition.
Arion Press, 1802 Hayes St.
Through Dec. 22 | Free
Christina Campodonico can be reached at [email protected]