About Our Team
Laurence A. Becker, Ph.D.
For more than 40 years, Laurence A. Becker, Ph.D. has been a tireless spokesman for savant artists with autism. He’s written articles for autism publications, organized conferences and art exhibitions displaying works by these savants, and produced films on these artists. He also produced a film, With Eyes Wide Open, which dives deep into the life and art of Scottish artist Richard Wawro, won several top awards, including one from the British Medical Association.
Dr. Becker has also introduced to America other noteworthy artists with autism, such as Christophe Pillault of France and Ping Lian Yeak of Australia. Their art can be seen in Dr. Darold Treffert’s acclaimed book, “Islands of Genius,” and on the website SavantSyndrome.com.
One constant presence that Dr. Becker has noticed in the lives of all the savants he has studied is that of steadfast parents and their loyal championing of their children. After analyzing the role these parents have played in the success of their unusual children, Dr. Becker decided the best way to recount their journeys is to let the parents tell their stories themselves.
In FIERCE LOVE and ART, Dr. Becker explores the parallels in these families. He also examines how the particular art form may vary between these savants, from painting to poetry, from woodworking to musical performance, but one human quality shines through unmistakably.
That is the loving devotion that some mothers and fathers have for their children, regardless of any disabilities the children may exhibit. Dr. Becker believes that devotion compels him to acknowledge and honor it.
Those are the common threads in the personal stories that make up FIERCE LOVE and ART.
Zimmerman joined the Director’s Guild of America in 1981 on the strength of his network television work for the primetime reality shows Real People on NBC and That’s Incredible! on ABC. While shooting one of his segments for That’s Incredible! he met savant Richard Wawro at Dr. Becker’s home in Austin. That chance meeting led to the collaboration between the two, With Eyes Wide Open, a documentary film shot in Scotland in 1981.
In this feature-length biographical film, Richard Wawro’s life is examined and the crucial link between Richard and his devoted parents, Olive and Ted, is explored. Olive was told to institutionalize her first-born son and “forget him,” but she knew that despite his diagnosis of severe retardation, he in fact had genuine intelligence (albeit of a different kind than most people). Richard’s many lifetime accomplishments and his sweet personality proved that Olive was indeed correct.
Zimmerman and Dr. Becker are again exploring the heartwarming theme of parents’ devotion to their children with autism in their new collaboration, FIERCE LOVE and ART.