Up with Down Syndrome: The Art of Walter Mika
Walter Mika is a man with Down Syndrome who loves making art. Born in 1961, he attends The Shield Institute Adult Day Habilitation Center for people with developmental disabilities in Bayside, Queens. Walter’s personality, like his art, is colorful and wonderfully uninhibited. His freedom of expression and ability to be open, trusting and joyful is delightful and this purity, innocence and love of life are reflected in his drawings.
Walter began attending Pure Vision Arts in 2001 prior to its official opening and continues to be a very active, enthusiastic and prolific maker of art. He attends PVA once or twice a week and enjoys the studio environment with its greater access to art supplies and studio space. In addition to working on paper, Walter also works on canvas, wood, and Masonite.
Driven by a determined desire to draw on a daily basis, art is an important and necessary outlet for Walter’s self-expression and communication. His need to create is evident in his level of concentration, time spent on each piece and the intensity of his energetic mark making. His work is bold and features a large, colorful and primitively drawn central figure depicting images inspired by television, cartoon characters, movies and favorite books. When asked the question “Tell me about your picture,” he will respond usually in one word: “Cartoon!” “Hollywood!” or “Clifford!” (the big red dog)
Walter watches a great deal of television at night and the subjects of his drawings change over time influenced by media and current events. His drawings reflect a profound desire to process and make meaning of the world. After Sept. 11th he began to draw figures wearing blue or red outfits and hats. When asked “Who are you drawing?” he responded “Police!” or “Firemen!” When the Iraq war began the clothing and hats were green and he said they were “Army!” Other media influenced work include Michael Jackson after his death and numerous paintings of Obama after he was elected.
Over the past 9 years Walter’s work has garnered media attention and acclaim for its unique quality and simplistic beauty. His drawings have been included in many exhibitions at Pure Vision Arts and other venues including The Outsider Art Fair, Marlborough Gallery and Van der Plas Gallery in New York City, Gallerie BelAge in the Hamptons, the European Outsider Art Fair in Austria and Gallerie Olof in The Netherlands. His work has also been featured in publications like Arts and Antiques and Envision Magazine and is included in many private collections. He has a bank account from the earnings of the sales of his artwork and enjoys purchasing walkmans, batteries, tapes and art supplies with his money.
Walter Mika’s passion for making art and his zest for living is inspirational and he is a beloved member of Pure Vision Arts.