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Escaping 'drudgery' for a life well lived: The story of artist Gregory Blackstock


This story originally aired on September 8, 2018.

Some people report to work purely for the paycheck. For others, the job itself plays a big part in their identity. Gregory Blackstock is a man who knows both sides of this coin.

Blackstock is autistic and for decades, he eked out a living as a dishwasher at The Washington Athletic Club. It was a place that treated Gregory very well, but he found the work difficult to get through.


"I just wanted to get away from drudgery," said Gregory.


Today, at 72, Gregory Blackstock is an internationally renowned artist known for drawing specific categories of objects: trains, crows, airplanes, anything he finds interesting. Even when he writes lists of words, there is something about the way they end up on the page that makes you want to look at them. His work is represented by the Greg Kucera Gallery iof Seattle.


Gregory’s cousin, Dorothy Frisch, is his guardian. Dorothy is the person in Gregory's life who has made it possible for him to become such a success.


Dorothy says that if you happened to cross paths with Gregory you would not think he was a talented artist who sells his pieces for thousands of dollars. You would probably assume he was homeless. His appearance is often disheveled and Dorothy says because of Gregory’s autism, he moves throughout the world without a lot of consideration for other people.


“He’s loud, he's big, he talks a lot. He wants an audience for this things that he talks about. So if you're in the room with him, he will corner you and talk to you forever about what’s interesting to him.”


Dorothy says she fears that Gregory’s abrupt mannerisms and inability to follow instructions will put him in harm's way. Despite this ongoing concern, she is constantly surprised by the kindness people bestow upon Gregory. Whether it’s a bus driver, a librarian or a server at a restaurant, her cousin has many angels who look out for him.


In this story we spend some some with Dorothy and Gregory. We’ll hear how the opening of a misplaced manila envelope helped launch Gregory’s career, and we’ll hear from Dorothy about how being Gregory’s guardian has showed her that there are many ways to live life well.