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Lo Tierney
March 19 - April 5

OUTPUT is excited to invite Lois Tierney into the gallery for their first solo exhibition. Tierney is a freelance illustrator from and based in Liverpool whose work often takes the subject of intersectional activism, supporting different communities in LGBTQ+ and disabled rights.

In this exhibition, titled ‘Spectrum,’ the artist presents portraits of autistic people, including a self-portrait of the artist themselves. 'Spectrum’ is an ongoing body of work that aims to bring people together and start a conversation between people with autism and allies. ‘What advice would you give on coping with autism? And what makes a good autism ally?' There is space in the show where visitors can contribute their thoughts, which will be gathered and formulated into illustrations and a zine.

Tierney graduated from LJMU BA Illustration in 2015, and has since been involved with projects during Light Night, ‘Coming Out’ at the Walker Art Gallery, as well as the group Artists Against Rampant Transphobia.

Artist Lo Tierney made an exhibition tour here.

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Please find the full press release here.

Listen to our podcast interview with Lo on Anchor, Spotify and Google.
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   “The worst part of having autism is people might not know you have it, so you might have to let them know you struggle with something and need some help if it's not obvious that your struggling with the task in hand. My favourite thing about having autism is even though you have it, you still can give things a go. It shouldn't set you back, for example I wanted to give driving a go and my mum told me that I should go for it and see how I get on. People say people with autism sometimes struggle with social situations, which I find annoying as even if I struggled socially, I have still been able to make friends, people should not presume they will find something hard when they don't.” – Amber
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“I always knew that I was different. When I was in school, people didn't understand that I had Asperger's and I was bullied for it. For example, I told a girl that I had Asperger's and she didn't know what that was. I told her that it was autism and she flipped at me because she thought that I was pretending to be autistic, as her brother had the condition.
I like having Asperger's because I'm not the same as everyone else. I now can be myself without judgement. - Skylar

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  "The best thing about being autistic is having the ability to see the world differently! It really helps fuel my creativity, which is so beneficial for me as an artist. The worst is having to deal with sensory overload! If I'm in a loud or busy place it can be overwhelming! My executive function is non-existent too, I'm probably the most disorganised person there is. The most annoying stereotype there is for me is when someone who isn't autistic puts us all in the same box and assume that were all socially awkward maths nerds because 1) I'm poo at maths so it's untrue and 2) we're all different, the autism spectrum is interesting because we all have our own talents and we should celebrate ourselves and each other.” – Lois
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“The worst parts of autism are the incredible frustration I get almost daily, the confusion and the meltdowns. Also, dating is nearly impossible, so it can be lonely. The best part is the power to 100% focus on any task and to get really good at it! Autism also helps with creativity, it gives you special powers; my special powers are photography, chess and politics.” – Michael
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'To say I was a late developer is a bit of an understatement; I got diagnosed on the 28th November 2017! I could say it was with me all my life, as I always knew I was different, but I never knew what was different about me. Growing up was hard; I was bullied at school and we moved around as family quite a lot, so I never really made any friends. I never fitted in at school and I was the kid that got into trouble quite a lot.

Fast forward to my 20s, I left school with no GCSE's and still wondering what was going on with me having these feelings and not being sure of myself. I wondering what's going on with me, I was developing suicidal thoughts because I didn't know how to control these crazy highs and lows.

Fast forward again to my 30's, things were getting hard. The thoughts were getting stronger and I didn't know where to turn or who to talk to. I was thinking what if I shut myself off to the world, I was hating myself and feeling insecure of myself not knowing what was making me feel like this.

I went to the doctors and explained how I was feeling. They said it was depression, but something inside me was telling me that it was something else. I went on the internet and looked at bipolar disorder, as I thought it could be that; I didn't think it was depression.

The doctor asked me what I thought it was, I said bipolar and they kept saying it was depression! So, after an whole 20 minutes of arguing, they said do I want an diagnosis I said yes straight away!

Six months had passed, and I got my first assessment to see what I had. After an hour of bizarre questions, they said I could have Asperger's. When they suggested that, a weight lifted off my shoulders and after a year I got diagnosed with Asperger's.
Now everything made sense to me!

What makes me angry is when I tell people that I'm autistic, they tell me that I don't look like I had it. I think to myself, what do you want me to look like? Shall I wave a flag saying I'm autistic?

However, the best thing about having Asperger's is that I see things in a different way than other people and I quite like that aspect of it. It also gives me a voice to help others who have gone through the same things as me.” - Peter
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 “I think being an autistic person who was diagnosed in my mid-teens, I have definitely understood autism as both an autistic person but also as a non-autistic person. Before my diagnosis, the only conceptions of autism I were exposed to were children who had meltdowns and couldn't communicate verbally. With this, if someone who was on the higher functioning end of the spectrum told me they were autistic, I'd be in sheer disbelief and would often say "oh but you don't seem autistic". With my diagnosis, I have educated myself a lot more about what it means to have autism and how it affects your life. The spectrum is a very common thing to be referred to when talking about ASD nowadays, and I think it's generally a great device to help people understand the range of people with autism. I will never doubt anyone's autistic validity which unproudly I probably have in the past. If we educated more on the spectrum in school and general life, we would be able to create a much safer and more inclusive society for every person on the autistic spectrum.” – Anthony
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“Having autism to me always seemed like it was easy for people to point me out as the 'weird' one. Valid to an extent, I was always the kid who wore the extra item of clothing, when I was angry, I would turn into a soap opera character, I even once campaigned to be taken out of Religious Education on Atheist grounds! I was fairly unusual... However, as I've got older and more reflective, I realised those things weren't because of my autism, they were just me being me! They were my individual eccentricities... not some subscripted list of 'weird' traits, because, my brain was wired slightly differently. I was the weird kid in school, but it was never the autism... it's because every kid was the weird kid back in school!” – James
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 “There are so called 'professionals' who believe autism is simply an extreme manifestation of the masculine principle. I have to laugh at that, as a very feminine autistic woman! I'm more emotional than logical, more right brained than left brained. I'm also very extroverted and rather confident in most social situations. Autistic people can be anything and everything.” – Erin
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'I think the worst thing about autism is the way it changes how you perceive the world around you; this isn't always bad. Some of the worst stereotypes of autism are that people think you're either an unfeeling empathy free robot or Rain Man, and they don't realise that we are not those stereotypes, we are all unique and individuals. One of the best things Ive found about my autism is my excess empathy I've found; it's allowed me to be more caring towards others and animals too.” – Kyle
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'I didn't get diagnosed until I was in my 20s, so I lived much of my life feeling confused about my symptoms and very socially isolated. I often say it like I was blue, but everyone expected me to be red or like I was green in a grey world.

One of the best things about being on the spectrum is my imagination and how fun it can be to collect loads of information, on the other hand they are also some of the worst things, along with social burn out, not being able to talk at times and not understanding certain social concepts. All these things make me very unique in both positive and negative ways, but I've realised the negatives are exasperated when I stop being myself and be who the world wants me to be.

I think one of the most ridiculous stereotypes I get is ‘you can't be on the spectrum. You don't LOOK autistic” or that black people can't be on the spectrum and we're just lying. People often see me as ‘arrogant’ or ‘stuck up’ when I'm being honest, or they think I'm ‘crazy’ when I have a sensory overload experience.

Life has taught me that I can't and shouldn't have to live up to other people's experience of me' - Gold
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  “I got diagnosed at 15 - I knew I was different even when I was in nursery. I sometimes hated being autistic because it was very severe, but now I don't because it's ok to be different! I get judged still but I don't let it define me.” – Sarah
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“The worst thing about having autism is I always say sorry even if I done nothing wrong. The coolest thing is for some reason, I pick up languages just by watching TV in that language!” – Pau
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  "My experience with autism also takes in the factor that as a male POC (person of colour) when I misinterpret or misunderstand a situation it's seen as‘defiant’ or ‘confrontational’. As an aspie, mixed-race man I can't separate the two, as they're both part of my identity. The negatives I experience through my Asperger's is feeling like I'm constantly in the middle, because I'm more socially aware and have more social skills than many of my friends who're on the spectrum, but not feeling that I am as socially skilled as my neurotypical friends. The positives are that I can see subliminal and symbolism in movies & music videos. As well as being creative in different ways!”– Dom
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    'You look normal, you can't have autism!’ – that stereotype is annoying for sure, as I don't feel that many people understand autism very much. The worst thing about being autistic is that it's made connecting to other people and communication more difficult; I’ve never felt that conversations flow naturally for me, sometimes it can make me question where I belong because people who don't have learning difficulties connect to people easier, it gets frustrating at times. The best thing about having autism is that I have to challenge myself more. I feel it's made me tougher as person to know that being different is ok, no matter how people see you or how they think you should be with autism.” – Vicky
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 “My experiences with autism: I used to consider having autism as something to hide or something that may alter people's perceptions of you, now not only am I not embarrassed to discuss it, but I am proud to say that I have it and can still succeed. Life can at times seem harder than it needs to be with autism, but an understanding family and friends combined with a real self-awareness of autism itself make you realise that it should not stop you doing what you want to do.
The worst thing about autism: Other people not always realising that what looks like sulking or overreacting is an unintentional part of life with the condition.

The best thing about autism: Understanding that you can still achieve anything you want in life regardless of having the condition, perhaps motivated more than usual by having it.

Misconceptions: People expecting you to behave in a specific manner physically/facially because you have autism when they may never suspect that you have the condition; not understanding that high levels of sensitivity and anxiety can be prevalent amongst autistic people; people sometimes unintentionally assuming that if you demonstrate that you can get by in life with autism, you do not require their assistance at times because the condition never leaves you and there are moments when you still need help.

Overall: How I perceive myself is influenced by my autism, but I try to look it as a positive. I hope that I can help others who have autism and to educate those who are not fully aware of what the condition entails.” – Mark
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“My name's Felicia  and I was diagnosed with Asperger's as an adult. I've always felt like I was different, but I put it down to social anxiety and being very introverted at times. It wasn't until a friend noticed that I had a lot of similar traits as his autistic girlfriend that I started to educate myself on ASD, thought about my childhood years and decided to speak to a professional.
I find the hardest part of having autism, personally, is establishing and maintaining friendships. I find it very difficult to meet new people due to the anxiety of not knowing what to say, I'm very bad at small talk and find it hard to come up with conversational topics. If I do luckily manage to establish a friendship, then I have the trouble of understanding how to maintain it e.g. how often to message them, see them face to face. I tend to end up being too overbearing or go weeks upon weeks not messaging these friends. Another downfall is the sensory overload, mine being sound, touch and smells. It can often make leaving the house to go shopping far too overwhelming as crowded noisy places make me feel on edge, there has been many times where I have run off to the nearest bathroom due to having a panic attack.

But having autism isn't all bad, I feel like it makes me a more honest and open person with the people around me, as I don't understand the need in lying, I feel like this makes people feel more trustworthy of me, I'm very analytical, passionate and have a love for arts and science. However, I am often met with ‘you don't look autistic’ which I don't really understand, as there isn't a particular way for an autistic person to ‘look', I feel like people may have this perception that autistic people are meant to look ‘nerdy’ or have weird/strange mannerisms.” – Felicia

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“The worst part of having autism is the executive dysfunction and meltdowns, it's as simple as that really! The worst stereotype to me is that because I can talk and hold down a job, people assume I can't possibly have autism, and that girls can't be autistic. It's just annoying because it's a developmental condition and it can affect anyone. People's ignorance baffle me! For me, the best part about being autistic is that I see the world in such a way that I can put a lot of different perspectives in it - I'm more creative because of it.” – Rayvn

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' The funny thing about trying to describe my relationship with autism is that for me, my autism is just part of me, like my eyesight or my hearing. If there were vaccinations made to prevent autism and depression, I'd take the one for depression in an instant, no questions asked, but I'd never, ever take the one for autism. Being autistic can have downsides, yes; sometimes when I'm talking to people, I'll realise halfway through the conversation that we're having two entirely different conversations in our minds. My spatial awareness, processing speeds, and hazard perception are also complete rubbish, which made me useless at sports in school (though later in life I discovered I'm quite nifty at swimming and yoga) and means I will never be able to drive a car.

However, autism also makes me great at solving puzzles which require lateral thinking (I'm pretty nifty with a cryptic crossword), and at communicating with people who struggle with English, or with eye contact, or with stammering, because I don’t need a conversation to fit certain standards in order to be able to follow it. I don't get bored with repetitive tasks like franking post or data entry because my inner life is rich enough that I can daydream away happily for hours. I don't feel fear at the idea of public speaking because it takes conscious effort for me to care about how others interpret my speech - I don't want to upset or offend anyone and will take care with that, but I couldn't care less about being ‘nerdy’ or ‘outspoken’. And I LOVE having special interests! Being able to memorise recipes at the drop of a hat or talk about video games for hours on end is so, so much fun. I love being autistic!

Now, if I had to pick out things about other people's ideas regarding autism that annoy me, I'm going to have to just choose a short few, because there certainly is a lot I could talk about. Number one is that I can't stand when parents of autistic children talk over autistic adults. So many charities based around autism focus on the families of autistic people, not the autistic people themselves, and worst of all seek a cure, or a way to identify (and abort) us in the womb. To put it mildly, it's infuriating. Then there's people who use autism as an insult; ‘That's so autistic!’; ‘The autism came out.’; ‘You went full autistic.’ As soon as these people got barred from using the r-slur they tried to turn autism into a slur, and I hate it. ‘You don't look/sound autistic!’ and ‘You're not REALLY autistic, my cousin/nephew/best friend’s uncle twice removed is autistic so I should know.’ are infuriating too. But if I had to pick one that's personally upsetting to me? It's when people deny that you need help. I often hear judgemental comments about my inability to drive, or my inability to fully control the volume of my voice, and my teachers in primary school were quite often vicious about calling me lazy and slow, ignoring every sign that something was stopping me from using my intelligence fully and blaming it on me not making a‘real effort’.

Thank god I had a supportive secondary school and supportive parents! I'll always remember Mum telling me that after I went to the interview to get a scholarship to my secondary school, the teacher said afterwards, ‘Your daughter is an eccentric, scatter-brained genius, and we have a place here for eccentric scatter-brained geniuses.’

It meant a lot to me to hear that at the time, and it still does.”
- Marie




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