Paintings of language overload and its opposite


I painted these earlier today. I started photographing these while Fey was hiding in the bathroom:


(Picture shows Fey hiding in the bathroom, looking octagonal. I knew someone with an octagonal cat once. But didn’t know Fey could be octagonal too.)

I only wished I was hiding. There was a fireworks show tonight and I could feel every explosion rattling my bones or something.

Anyway, the first painting is about language overload. There are letters in it, which show much better in real life than in photos. So I took one photo of it the way it should look, and then another photo with light behind it so that it would show where the letters are. But the photo with the letters has extremely distorted colors for the same reason that the letters show well.



It’s orange because that’s the color that always seems to be there when I’m overloaded by language. There’s letters throughout (ones that are yellow, orange, or clear synesthetically) but they don’t actually spell words (the same as language both imposes on me and makes no sense when I’m overloaded by it). And in general it’s supposed to convey what it’s like to be stuck in this overloaded language mode and not be able to get out.

After doing that, I felt kind of icky even though I wasn’t overloaded, so I did another painting that’s the opposite of language and the opposite of overload both.


This one looks a lot better when you look at the larger versions on flickr. I have no idea how to describe it. It’s got a lot of layers and texture, and it’s hard to see some of the texture in a photo (but you could actually put your hand on it and feel some of the shapes). The photo isn’t a direct shot because that seemed to get the flash to mangle the colors, and I’m not good at photographing the kind of paintings I do. They always end up looking less complex than they are, when I photograph them. But that one photographed reasonably well as long as I did it at an angle like that.


About Mel Baggs

Hufflepuff. Came from the redwoods, which tell me who I am and where I belong in the world. I relate to objects as if they are alive, but as things with identities and properties all of their own, not as something human-like. Culturally I'm from a California Okie background. Crochet or otherwise create constantly, write poetry and paint when I can. Proud member of the developmental disability self-advocacy movement. I care a lot more about being a human being than I care about what categories I fit into.

13 responses »

  1. Thank you for this insight. I watched your ‘in my language ‘ video on a course for work last week. It has helped me to understand the people I work with a lot more clearly now.

  2. Thanks. I don’t usually intend a meaning, but sometimes one happens. Like the second painting wasn’t intended to be the opposite. But after that hideous shade of orange I had been working with, I just sort of gravitated to colors and themes that were much more relaxing. And then I realized it was kind of like the opposite to the first.

    I have been concentrating more than usual lately on conveying various sensory/mental states rather than just painting whatever. But normally I just paint (and somehow it often comes out with cats involved.)

  3. Hello,

    I would just like to say, I really like your paintings, what medium are you using because I couldn’t find details on the site?

    Below is an e-mail which I sent to ASAN as I don’t have time to do different ones.

    I am a 48 year old autistic from England who has found no help with advocacy or research into suitable employment in ten years of search in the UK.

    Please don’t tell me about the National Autistic Society, the Job Centre or any other local or national services/charities or other organisations in the UK as I have tried them all and none of them are able to help because of complex rules so it isn’t a question of not having found the right organisation. I need an individual freelance or self-employed who is allowed to help me.

    If you don’t know the answer to the following questions, aren’t allowed to advise people from outside your area or otherwise aren’t able to help me, please don’t reply as I pay for the use of a computer and every extra e-mail that I have to read through will cost.

    Is there an equivalent of ‘Asperger United’ which is a newsletter available both printed format and online published and edited by and for autistics in your country or worldwide in an English version? Are there any websites or online forums by and for autistics?

    Are there any specific support groups/information sites etc aimed at autistic adults by which I mean people over 21 which is the highest age catered for in the UK, most services are purely for children and families, don’t any other of us live past 21?

    Are there any kinds of advocates (not legal advocates) but people who put forward your questions and point of view etc to other people if you have trouble communicating. There are none in the UK for autistic adults, there isn’t a paying service either. Are there any in Australia, America, any other English-speaking country who would be prepared to deal with me? Also are there any researchers who are competent to do this, again in any countries who might be capable of looking for suitable paid work, if any for an autistic person of my age group? I cannot work in factories or laundry services anymore. These are the only things available in the UK.

    Are there any careers people anywhere in the English speaking world who deal with disabled or even with the none disabled who are capable of researching what kinds of paid occupations exist in the world or is there any kind of either a book or website which doesn’t just list occupations but tells you what the work is and gives you a job description which is easy for the everyday person to understand. I cannot find such a thing anywhere in the UK, again don’t tell me to contact the careers service or government departments as I have tried this.


    D Maher

  4. I’m using acrylic paint. I wish I could help with the other stuff but don’t know enough resources. And I know how completely maddening it is to always be told “go to the NAS” or similar when that clearly hasn’t worked, I was in a similar position years ago during a complex situation that involved needing emergency housing (eventually spent that time on the street, because every agency we called said it wasn’t their problem and to call another agency).

  5. Wow. Just, wow. Especially the “opposite of language and the opposite of overload” one, which really affected me strongly. Shame it is near impossible to capture the textures in photography.

    Interesting, with the red-orange shade association. I usually end up with a sickly yellow, but the flip side of that? Similar color associations.

  6. Never had an overload like the orange painting before. Thanks for the new perspective.

    And I only saw the same shot on flickr (do I need an account for that?). The blue-green painting looks quite well as it is.

  7. When I’m just floating around in my mind, the opposite of language overload is what it looks like to me, but I can also move around and through it.

    I know what you mean about the orange.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s