Astro Saulter (b1978, Jamaica) is a digital artist living in Negril, Jamaica. As an infant, Astro was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy – a brain and nervous system disorder which causes severe physical disability. One of eight children, Astro’s parents nurtured all of their children’s creative spirit and Astro was no different. At the age of 12, he was enrolled in a special needs school in the USA. There he learned basic subjects and computer skills, including the use of a hands-free head set to perform computer functions. He was later transferred into the general high school system in Miami, Florida. He returned home to Jamaica in 1998. Since then Astro has used the computer as his ‘life-line’ to the world. Around 2001, he began creating visual art. Enabled by the program EZ-Keys, Astro operates his computer using a head switch on the back of his wheelchair, he uses drawing programs such as Macromedia Freehand and Inkscape to “sketch” his drawings, painstakingly connecting lines and filling colors one step at a time.
I have no voice but I am not silent. I use tools beyond my physical body to communicate. I use my images to tell stories, and capture snippets from my life, share the way that I see them. My artwork is made up of digital sketches with a loud dose of color inspired by the tropical grandeur of my Caribbean surroundings.
The artistic process takes a huge amount of patience because I am dependent on the medium of the computer to create my sketches. There can be unexpected roadblocks that constantly challenge my process, a day that we lose power on our little island road in Jamaica can mean a crashed computer and a whole day or even weeks of work lost.
For me, my practice has become an exercise in joy and faith. It is a kind of meditation that has opened doors to the way that people understand me. I seek to inspire artists and all people to exercise patience and vision and to stay steadfast in their commitment to making their artwork or way in the world. Whatever the challenge, be it a disability like mine or only a small roadblock in their path I’d like to encourage us all to express our true voice.
Please view the following video on Astro, courtesy of the Creators Project:
In her review of the 2013 Outsider Art Fair in New York City, renowned art critic Roberta Smith noted that the work on display: “once again confront[ed] the world of contemporary insider art with irrefutable proof that the most lasting work comes from unstoppable emotional necessity, an especially useful lesson for the moment.” This is my vision for Astro Saulter’s work within this exhibition – a demonstration of the power of art that comes from a place of genuine exigency. Unable to speak or move much of his body, Astro’s work is most certainly the product of “unstoppable emotional necessity”. His art is after all his main line of communication to a world that can be dismissive and unacommadating for those with disabilities, all the more here in Jamaica. The work’s sharp lines and intense colour communicate an urgency and relation to contemporary digital art aesthetics, while his wide-ranging and unconventional subjects reveal a fresh perspective. Astro’s stated intention of being an inspiration to people living with disabilities and anyone dealing with a challenge (physical or otherwise) cannot be overlooked either. His dedication to his assiduous practice, the insistent vibrancy of his work in the face of trying circumstances, and the work’s capacity to hold its own within and without “outsider art” spaces makes him an important contributor to the emerging art scene in Jamaica.