HARLEM, N.Y. – As a new year begins, 17-year-old artist Haile King-Rubie looks back on 2007 with a great sense of happiness, satisfaction and pride.
In what can only be described as a break-out year, King-Rubie – who is mentally challenged by Down Syndrome – experienced the confidence-building joy of a premier exhibit of 30 of his paintings, including 18 at a Harlem bank; the distribution of greeting cards using several of his paintings and the setup of a Web site, hailesimo.org, displaying his artwork.
It was a smiling, enthralled King-Rubie who, with hugs and handshakes, welcomed attendees to the exhibitions, the first of which was held in his studio located in a Harlem brownstone owned by his parents, Bernardo and Audrey Rubie.
Among the attendees was Ilyasah Shabazz, a daughter of Malcolm X and author of the book Growing Up X. “It is always exciting,” said Shabazz, “to see the first exhibition of paintings by a new, talented artist. And Haile is very talented.” This is an opinion shared by many who have seen King-Rubie’s colorful, acrylic paintings, including art lovers from Japan, France, Germany and Sweden.
The teen’s parents discovered his affinity for painting when he was 4 years old and decided to send him to a school where he interacted with a broad diversity of school mates, rather than to a special school for the Down Syndrome. They are proud of their son. “Haile is a wonderful son who is also a wonderful artist,” says Bernardo Rubie.
“He has an interesting painting style. Anyone viewing his artwork can see that his style has a strong cultural and spiritual bent.” Adds his mother Audrey, who is from the west African nation of Liberia, “Haile has loved to paint since he was four years old. He is still so committed to continue growing as an artist that, after school, he spends four to six hours a day studying with Haitian artist, Carl Thelemarque, for whom he is an intern.” His paintings have been described by writer, Deandra Shuler, as being “vibrant.
Some display a childlike innocence while others demonstrate an amazing depth of field, proportion, texture and aesthetic value.” Family members have encouraged King-Rubie in every way they can in his quest to be as independent as anyone can be who is challenged by Down Syndrome, a condition that results in mild to moderate mental and physical retardation due to chromosomal anomaly.
For King-Rubie, the past year was a giant step toward achieving some measure of independence by having a career that he loves while at the same time earning income. Amidst of the praises for his work, he says he has his favorite paintings. They are of “my family and friends.” (AP)
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