Midtown Raleigh News

A young artist with autism builds an independent life

Artist King Godwin paints while his mother, Yuko Taylor, looks on.
Artist King Godwin paints while his mother, Yuko Taylor, looks on. sbarr@newsobserver.com

In his North Raleigh studio last week, King Nobuyoshi Godwin painted rows of orange lines on a canvas with a base of bright blue, working at a calm, deliberate pace.

“What number is that?” asked his mother, Yuko Taylor.

“Eleven,” he told her.

“What does that feel like?” she asked.

Godwin paused, then grinned a sweet smile. “An OK day,” he said.

Godwin, 21, has autism and took up painting this year. When he sold his first painting last month after participating in a show that runs through September at the Roundabout Art Collective, it wasn’t just an artistic success but a sign of the independence he’s worked hard to gain.

Taylor encourages her son to explore activities on his own, and he’s embraced painting with zeal. He’s practically taken over the studio that Taylor, a painter, had set up in their house, where he works while listening to music, from Janet Jackson to Tupac Shakur.

Godwin’s paintings are done in vibrant colors and often feature repeated numbers with the outline of an animal layered on top. The numbers and colors usually represent particular feelings to Godwin.

He explains his choices simply. “I like it,” he said.

Anna Ball Hodge, a member of Roundabout, said she’s found Godwin’s art inspiring. “He just does what he feels, which is how we all should paint and create,” she said.

His own place

Taylor said that she hopes Godwin will continue to exhibit his work, but it’s up to him. He will have to approach galleries himself, with help from an aide who works with him several times each week.

It’s all part of an effort to make sure he can live as independently as possible. Godwin was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 years old, and he reads and writes at about a third grade level. He answers questions in short, declarative sentences.

This summer, Godwin, Taylor and her husband, Thomas Taylor, renovated the family’s two-car garage into an apartment where Godwin lives on his own.

Last week, after he finished painting, Godwin headed back to his apartment, where he kicked back to watch videos on YouTube.

As Taylor sat nearby, she invited him over to the house for dinner that night.

“Maybe,” he told her, glancing up. Taylor beamed at his casual reply, and Godwin beamed right back.