The apocryphal story told of Dwight Mackintosh's birth in Hayward, California in 1906, was that it occurred simultaneously with the Great San Francisco Earthquake — and that his disability stemmed from that traumatic coincidence. Mackintosh first lived at home but was institutionalized at age 16. There he remained for the next 56 years, until the mass release of patients in 1978. Shortly thereafter he was introduced to Creative Growth in Oakland, California, where he contentedly worked on his drawings with great focus and concentration. Mackintosh’s images centered on the figure — initially he drew only boys. Over the years he gradually introduced new elements, including see-through (x-ray) vehicles, animals, and even a few women. Early model cars and high-buttoned boots of a previous era were images remembered from childhood.
Unintelligible writing was often an element of Mackintosh’s drawings, but it was separate from the primary image — like so many layers of unraveled yarn floating overhead. His sequences of connected letters moved from left to right as if they were continuous explanatory text, or perhaps one vast sentence or signature. His pages were peppered with dotted ‘i’s and carefully crossed ‘t’s, but no one, not even Dwight Mackintosh, could tell us what was written.
A series of strokes in his later years changed the dynamic of Mackintosh’s images, and the sure, clear, steady line for which he’d been known became a dense, echoing ripple, and the precision of the earlier line was replaced with a new and different kind of intensity. Mackintosh died in 1999.
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