Chinese version was released on May 29 2014. The following is just a preface for the Chinese and English versions. The English and French version will be coming soon in 2015.
愛在當下 Carpe Amor
李柏毅＆簡靜惠 Leland Lee & Karen Chien
Every moment you live in, I will hold your hands and be there with you; every thing makes you happy, I will experience with you.
Never-ending love and endeavor
Jin-Pyng Wang, President of Legislative Department
I was sworn in as additional legislator on February 1st, 1976. A few days after, I went to Kuomintang’s (KMT) headquater on No. 18, Wu Chang Street to have a meeting. After visiting there a couple of times , I started to dine or have meetings frequently at Café Astoria, which is unique and characteristic. As Karen says, “ Café Astoria can be Café Astoria is because, with time going by, it carries its stories and its weight.” With the returning of “Rain-man painter” Leland , we can even witness a new legend.
As the little pricess of Café Astoria, before God giving her the most challenging task, Leland, her life was exactly like the line that the well-known commercial at the moment delivered, “Life is colorful.” When autism sneaked into her life like a thief, it stole the “perfect life” that Karen had established. Until now, the medical world still hasn’t managed to find out the real cause of austism. When a mother is informed that her son is suffering from a severe autism, this mother is going to face the fear that she can no longer protecct her son one day. Before that day coming, she has to endure a great pain and the poignancy and the daylight is never coming. Karen has thence been living in this way for more than 24 years and 6 months, which is around 8600 days!
With the great support and help from Karen, her son who suffers from a severe autism started to show his talent in painting when he was merely 3-year-old. At the age of 9, he was examined as a genius in painting, then he held his first art exhibition when he was 12 and became famous worldwide. As a result of his achievement in arts, he was chosen as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Persons on October 13th last year. When I presented the trophy to him, I felt exceptionally special for him. I would very much like to know about how he comes this far and what his stories are. Previously, I encountered the most troubling period in my political career, Ms. Ting Hsu, the editor from Crown publisher happenend to send me a copy of Carpe Amor. All of sudden, I came to an understanding, the effort that Leland and Karen had made responded to my curiosity. When this book is published, it certainly can provide a good reference to people who concern about austism here in Taiwan, also people can acquire some profound philosophies. It is beyond estimation to value the impact. In the hope that this book can be translated into different languages, it will therefore become an immense contribution to sixty-seven million people of austism community all over the world. What a merit that she has achieved!
A strong mother
Loretta Marut, Spouse of Director of American Institute in Taiwan (AIT)
She is a tough woman and he is an art genius.
We usually describe those feminines who fight for their careers and receive recognition from the society as tough women. We hardly use it as a compliment to those who throw themselves into taking care of children. However, not every mother can do all those things that Karen has done to her son Leland. If there weren’t the persistent willpower, the continuous courage and the real action, in terms of one’s spirit, strength, tolerance and patience, it would be a severe trial in the long term. As she says, raising an autistic child can’t be measured by day, by month or by year, but by every five years or even every ten years. Human beings are made from flesh and blood. If there wasn’t the support from God and an unyielding character, it would be unlikely to take all the worries and torments, she would probably give up before getting applause. We don’t know how many autistic children are locked at home and have never gone out till the day they leave this world.
When Leland was little, Karen was like a mother sheltering in the forest. To find a way out, even if there was a tiny beam of light, she still bravely took her child in her arms and grooped their way. With no fear of sweat, no fear of thorn, they never give up. She guided Leland progressively from his self-enclosed world to the society that we are all so used to. It is certainly not an easy job but they have succeeded. Leland’s etiquette in public and his sweet gestures left me a very good impression.
Apart from taking good care of Leland in his daily life, helping his studies, training his body and broadening his horizons, Karen joins a lot of activities to educate the public, to assist people in having a better understanding of the symptoms of austism and to coach how to plan strategies; people can accordingly come to an easy mind and a normal attitude towards autistics and let them have their own spaces.
Speaking of Leland, he is polite with me all the time. His paintings are full of bold colors, energy, passion and earnestness. With his paintbrush, flowers, hearts, feet, mooses, the universe, those things and scenes in daily life or in the imaginary world are all interpreted in a lively way. I am very honored to be your friends, Karen and Leland.
She is a dedicated mother and he is a diligent and sweet son.
With the blessing and love from God, I am certain that every day for them will be filled with boundless laughter and joy.
Cheng-Sheng Lin, Director
I remember that was the winter in 2007 that I just started to make plans for the documentary “ Twinkle twinkle little starts.” A mother of a child with Asperger Syndrome was very eager to introduce me to Leland and his mother.
We had a meeting at Café Astoria, I didn’t know Leland is the grandson of the founder of Café Astoria until I went there. Born and raised in Los Angeles, Leland moved back to Taiwan with his mother when she decided to take over Café Astoria. The day we met, I was so captivated by all those paintings by Leland hanging on the wall of the third floor. Each painting is a riot of bold and vivid colors, which abundantly presents a pure but splendid emotion. Leland uses colors with boldness. Those radiant colors as a shining sun become an extreme contrast to his soft and reticent look. From his art works, we can observe a strong feeling, a strong feeling which he doesn’t know how to say outloud, is gushing out like a fountain.
I was enchanted by Leland. At that moment, I decided to film this young painter.
On Leland’s 19-year-old birthday on May 2008, we started to film the documentary of him. During the whole filming process, I kept an extremely beautiful image in my mind: Leland’s mother holds his hand all the time. She keeps his company and leads him forwards. Guiding him through the streets in Taipei, the boulevards in Paris, the avenues in Los Angeles; accompanying him to see “Mona Lisa” in the Louvre Museum, to see “The Last Supper,” to visit Van Gogh, his favorite painter, in Musée d’Orsay, to receive blessings from other church members in the church that he was baptized, to attend his personal art exhibition in Los Angeles, to share his love that he expresses by the amazing pieces he paints.
Whenever I think of Leland and his mother, an image of a long and winding road comes to my mind. Leland and his mother walk hand in hand and keep each other company, they clear a path which is bittersweet but with an abundance of happiness.
It is a long way to guide Leland as he grows up. When Leland’s mother looked back upon the endeavours, she turned every effort they made, every feeling they had into words in this book. There are a lot of stories about raising an autistic child in this book. Having the maternal love which consists of chariness and patience as well as teaching progressively are both very challenging tasks. It takes repeated instructions and monotonous practices to educate an autistic child. This book will surely comfort parents of autistic children and pass on various concepts of raising them. In the meanwhile, it delivers an public message on the condition of this group. A better comprehension will lead to a better tolerance. These children with an unusual life will thus have more opportunities to shine and bring us a different kind of beautiful life.
Leland’s mother wrote this book when she looked back through her previous path. Written with her life, it tugs at readers’ heartstrings and it is particularly touching. I recommend this book to everyone: a book with a flow of beautiful sentiments.
A world full of love portrayed by the paintbrush
Brenda Lin, Director of Les enphants
It was an honor to have a lunch with Leland and his mother, Karen, at their place in Taipei. When I took the elevator and the door opened, they were both there welcoming me warmly. Leland was very excited to show me around their appartment. Each wall was decorated with his art works as if I entered a completely different world, which was a sentimental world full of dynamic colors and tangled shapes.
A giraffe mother caressing her infant gently, a puzzling view of downtown, some characters dancing and pondering in Henri Matisse’s style, personified mousses observing their surroundings happily but being confused out of doubts and dullness at the same time. With a quick glance of his room, I got his strong views as an artist. Moreover, from the world seen through his eyes, also according to him, this is a world filled with love, humor, safty and surprise.
From a variety of art works, paintings, masks, sketches, and potteries, when I appreciate any of them, what impresses me the most is his practical attidtude upon drawing the lines. Every line, every touch is derived from a true believe. Only experiences, experiments and deep realizations can bring out this kind of awareness and confidence.
In his creations, there is a surprising harmony: how can mousses sit on the letter L so cozily (Come and sing) ? How can onion domes magically transform into planets in the universe (Moonlight in Saint Petersburg) ? How can Taipei 101 repeatedly presents in different backgrounds? How can animals and human beings share the identical appearance and body and then exchage with no difficulty?
One of those autistic traits is the individual uniqueness, which make the patient feel lonely and consequently not able to intergrate into the world. Yet, the beauty and amazement from Leland’s creations are completely the contrast to this kind of concept. He has repeatedly proven to me that we are all tangled together in this world.
Maternal love looming in the paintings
Dr. Susan Gau, Professor of Department of Psychiatry at National Taiwan University (NTU) Hospital
I am the Dr. Susan that Leland refers to.
I didn’t hesitate at all and accepted gladly when Lelans’s mother asked me if I could write a preface for this book. People tend to forget about his traits and his stories behind the masterpieces when all their attentions lie on his art talent. This book portrays Leland’s mother, a stong, fearless, tough, loving mother, about how she creates a high-quality environment for her child to develop his talent and how she learns to love all the autistic children. Upon reading, I was really touched as if I experienced the 25-year growth of Leland.
What did I learn from Leland? I have seen many of his paintings. Each one is so different, so full of surprises and innovations, and just like this book suggests, there is always a secrect behind each painting that he wants to tell. Leland’s mother gives some examples in the book as well that you can notice that Leland communicates with people by his paintings. Anyone who knows him would understand what he is trying to tell you. From what I have observed, there is not only his distinguished painting style. I was there once in person when he painted. I saw how firm he was with the paintbrush and every color was so sturdy. It gives you an impression that he is a person that is very earnest and he knows what he is doing. Each of his paintings, regardless of the size, is painted with 100% concentration. He wouldn’t take a break until he gets it done. Besides, he shows this attitude not only on painting but also on swimming and on playing guitar. He never puts till tomorrow what should be done today and does everything till he sees it as a perfection. For his persistence, his honesty of typical austism, and the straightforward trait, you don’t have to be worried about if he lies to you, he shows his emotions and ideas directly which totally demonstrates a good example which is different from everyone else.
I have heard various stories about autistic children at clinic and I can see one thing in common: they all encounter some difficulties due to innate language and social obstacles and some stubborn behaviors. They have to rely on their parents to discover what they are good at. When these children become stable, they come back to clinic every one, three or six months, I learn their progress horizontally. However, this book narrates the story of Leland vertically right from his childhood. I am sure that a lot of parents can find some common tracks of raising children. Parents can understand how austic children come this far and how they have dazzling smiles, healthy bodies as well as playgrounds where they can freely develop their interests.
Given Leland was already a well-known artist who had personal exhibitions in the U.S, many people wondered if he could keep his fame when he and his mother moved back to Taiwan around seven or eight years ago. Today, it proves that he keeps not only his international level but also continues to have exhibitions in different countires all over the world. With his growth and a better perception of Taiwanese culture, there is even more energy in his creations. He brings not only his painting and his passion back to Taiwan, he also enhances the international reputaion of art and autism in Taiwan. The first time that I attended Leland’s international exhibition was at the convention of International association for child and adolescent in Paris in 2012. At that time, Leland’s mother thought that was a chance of a lifetime to show people from every corner of the world how Taiwan values and makes efforts for autism. She contacted the Ministry of Foreign Affairs all by herself, using every resourses she had to cooperate with the International convention and to display Leland’s paintings. His paintings were highly praised by dozens of child and adolescent psychiatrists on the day of exhibition; as a result, people learned that Taiwan is capable of cultivating such a great artist. It was the first time that I witnessed his contribution and influence of helping Taiwan to become visible internationally. Leland and his mother have been feeling very lucky that they have been through a long way. In the meanwhile, they notice that austism hasn’t received sufficient support in Taiwan, for example, in the society, in the educational and medical system, and the public also has a limited knowledge of austism. This makes them want to help more autistic children in Taiwan. With all those efforts she has made to connect with relevant resources on the Internet as well as the popularity of Leland in the U.S. , she invited several experienced experts in treating autism to participate in an International seminar in Taiwan in March 2014, in hopes of delivering the condition of autism education and nowaday clinical status to people outside Taiwan, also facilitating the domestic acquaintance of autism. Taking part in the whole process personally, she hopes every single autistic child can get sufficient care and treatment as much as her child. Given Asia, comparing to the U.S. and those European countries, has a relative shortage of knowledge and aids regarding this realm, she indicates that her target is Asia and expects there will be significant progress and improvement in the near future.
Leland was awarded as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Persons in 2013. I remebered that there was a judge calling me and asking whether I would chose Leland if I was him. I replied with a brief answer, “Leland is already a world-class painter. Simply speaking from this aspect, he would certainly be qualified for the titile of “Outstanding Young Person,” let alone he has to conquer those autistic symptons. He surely deserves the prize.” I am truly happy that he received this award. Through his paintings, he tries to make this world become a better one, hoping people from all over the world get to know about Taiwan.
I see a strong mother in this book. As the saying goes, being a mother makes you strong, she spares no effort to use her intelligence and make good use of all the resources, so that no matter how big the difficulty Leland encounters, he is able to expand his potentiality with no worries. I read this book as if I accompanied him through each of his period of growth and I get to realize how hard they are trying, including my patients and their families. As a doctor, how can I not work hard?
Maternal love on the palette
Chun-Ming Huang, Writer
Leland suffers from autism but he has become a painter, and then he was awarded as one of the 10 Outstanding Young Persons in 2013.
Everything seems simply easy. Nevertheless, we have no idea how many tears Leland his family have shed on the path that they have walked through right from his birth till his paintings are recognized internationally; espeically Leland’s mother, Karen, she bore the poignancy herself for a long time, every night she thought of what happened to her son in the daytime, people with no empathy even blamed her for having a autistic child. Under this enormous pressure and the fact that it’s more complicated to educate Leland, Karen didn’t get beat down, she discovered his talent in painting upon taking good care of him, she cultivated him towards becoming a painter thereafter. This might sounds easy, but how many people can do it? Even if Leland has big potential, it would be unlikly to have this success if there was no maternal love from Karen that she is willing to sacrifice for her son.
I’m eighty years old now and I used to be a frequent customer to Café Astoria on Wu Chang Street. Back then, Karen was like a quiet Barbie doll, dressing in a neat and tidy manner. As time goes by, the Barbie doll has become a mother with two children. Despite the fact that Leland suffers from autism, with the endeavors from Karen, Leland gets to achieve what others cannot do, to communicate with people in this world that speak different languages with his paintings.
Karen asked me to write a few words for her book right before Mothers’ day which makes me feel even more affected. Her image presents what a great mother is. Apart from the pigments on Leland’s palette, there are also the tears from his mother.
A surprising gift
Xiao-Chuang Kuo, Winner of National Award for Arts, Winner of 10 Outstanding Female Young Persons
The first time that I met Karen was around seven or eight years ago, I was very impressed by her elegance and calm attitude. When we came across again, there was also a gentle and handsome big boy beside her. What makes these two mother and son charming is not just their appearance but also the story behind it.
Leland is a young painter and suffers from autism.
His mother, Karen, is the young daughter from the well-known Café Astoria.
The birth of Leland disarranged the “perfect life” of Karen which she had taken it for granted. She quitted her job and groped the way in autism with Leland. Apart from consulting experts and scholars, she led Leland to walk out from the self-enclosed “shell” , to see the world and to experience everything. The effort she has made is thousands of times than educating a normal child. Today, Leland has turned out to be a world-renowned young painter; even though it is not done on purpose, it is still a surprising gift.
Indeed, from a mother’s perspective, every child is a little angel sent by God, there must be a destiny that God has made for him. Under Leland’s puzzling look of autism, he has an incredible potential in painting. Karen, as a mother, unties the puzzle with unparalleled love and persistence and Leland gets to paint freely with thte grace from God.
I understand that cultivating an artist is a long and challenging process; a child with art talent happens to be autistic makes the challenge even bigger to unlock the lock of his mind.
Karen shares her 25-year experience and her recognition of autism in this book and readers can testimony that people who are blessed receive the grace.
The love and intelligence from a mother
Victoria Yung-Chih Lu, International curator, Professor at Department of Communications Design of Shih Chien University
The reason why I know Karen is because I met a little art genius, Leland, but I realized that this little genius is an autistic child afterwards. Leland lives in his world, he talks to himself, he paints constantly, he keeps singing one song after another. For him, everyday is like yesterday, tomorrow will be like today, he doesn’t feel time passing by; as a result, Karen has to arrange everything for him and reminds him repeatedly what he has to do. Karen, who grew up like a princess, can no longer argue about being fast or slow or about what is important. Looking at her son singing, she says, “Who says autistic children are pitiful? Look at him! He is a happy little prince who has no worries at all!” Just like that, princess Karen is being beautiful all the time because of forgetting the time and being wise because of her unconditional love for her son. Carpe amor is their perpetual agreement of life; a network doesn’t require a password and stays connected 24 hours.
Power of love
Ai Ling Chen, Chairman of Fubon Cultural and Educational Foundation
I made my acquaintance with Karen when I entered Sacred Heart Girls’ High School and studied my 7th grade. The moment I saw her, it occurred to me that if Snow White was real, it had to be her. At the age of 14, she was genuinely like a princess coming out from a fairytale, having pearl white teeth, a youthful bloom of skin, a tall and fit figure, and looking fresh all the time. During that time, I didn’t realize what “ Café Astoria” really standed for, because my attention completely lied on Karen.
We didn’t get to know each other that much in our youth. When we met again, she already beacame a mother with two big kids. She just moved back to Taiwan with Leland and serendipity brought us together again. To organize an International Austism Conference and some relative activities later on, we started to develop our close friendship that we had missed earlier. The same Karen I see nowadays is no longer the 14-year-old princess but a beautiful and mature woman with incredible intelligence and strong personality.
I am convinced that raising Leland is certainly the most powerful strength that supports her making such an alteration .
As they say, being a mother makes you strong. It sounds easy but only those mothers who have gone through countless challenges and “splendid” experiences can truly understand what it means. In this book, we witness the significant process in life of Karen, Leland and their family and we feel the power of love. I believe that readers can get some personal inspirations from it. In this turbulent period of time, we particularly need a strong and warm sharing like this.
Life isn’t perfect but it’s surrounded by love anytime
I am truly honored to write a preface for Karen’s book. Every word tells the story of joy and tears from a mother of an autistic child; it deeply touches me that I don’t even know where to begin with. Knowing Karen for years, I see her standing firmly when people look at them with doubt, I see her always looking at Leland with smile, I see her trying to be a brave mother, these all affect me upon thinking of them.
Life will never be perfect.
Autism is not horrible but is either an option that we can choose. Even though they are different, I am still convinced that they are the most beautiful and precious gift for their parents. Karen once said, on the path that she and Leland struggle together, she once felt lonely. However, I think they actually obtain an even more abundant love than any other parents and children during this process. This challenge enriches their life and brings it more vibrant colors.
Autistic children shouldn’t be exploited from their learning rights. I really admire Karen’s persistence and determination. She tried so hard to dig Leland’s potential. Karen’s effort also reminds us that we shouldn’t limit the strong potential from children. No matter special or normal children, they all need to be inspired, to be encouraged, and it requires ample love from parents, families and friends.
Because of Karen, I get to know Leland; because of Leland, I became acquainted with his paintings.
From colors to black and white, from two dimentions to three dimentions, those paintings by Leland are sometimes bold, sometimes lively, sometimes simple, sometimes splendid. Through painting, he expresses fully his emotions, his thoughts, his words, his scents, even his smiles and tears.
Using paintings to record his own life, this is Leland: simple and wonderful.
“Anytime” is the word that Leland has been saying it constantly since I knew him. As far as he is concerned, you have to seize the moment and live life to the fullest. A distincive child teaches us the simplest truth.
Thanks to Karen, I have some realizations.
No matter the child is healthy or not, the love from parents is anytime.
No matter the child is healthy or not, the hope from parents that they want their chid to be happy is anytime.
No matter the child is healthy or not, the gratitude for God from parents is anytime.
Life is a endless course which will never ends; we all need to learn to understand and tolerate each other.
It is the same between parents and children.
Life is a creation
Beatrice Pei-Ni Hsieh, Director of Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts
Every once in a while I hear from Karen that Leland has new creations. Leland starts his journey in painting at the age of seven. He likes to travel with his mother and visit museums, galleries all over the world. He quickly turns those visual experiences, views and unique architectures from place to place into his creation materials.
Leland has beome the most loyal employee at Café Astoria. When he works, the energy he has would make you have an illusion that there were three people. Folding the yellow boxes of Café Astoria from flat to stereoscopic form, every step is so fast and accurate. In no time, it has become a special “scene.” He shows his concentration as an artist on a simple task. Café Astoria is where his life and work locate.
Leading a simple life and having a pure mind make him able to focus all the time. When he is painting, he is equally concentrating and faithful as if every piece has been carved in his head and all he has to do is reconstruct it by his paintbrush on the canvas. Fine and convoluted lines one after another, layers of space, a good arrangement of colors, you can tell that his creations reflect his life.
To understand Leland’s works can be easy but also very hard at the same time. What makes it easy is you just simply have to expose yourself to his paintings and respond his creations in a concentrating and simple way. On the other hand, given the tension, chaos, anxiety of modern people, it is far from easy to focus on the present and being simple simultaneously.
As one of the most important art museums in Taiwan, Kaohsiung Museum of Fine Arts has been focusing on young artists from this land for a long period of time. We are delighted to see a young artist, who just won the title as 10 Outstanding Young Persons, is marching steadily and attentively towards the path of arts. He is also writing a different page of art history of Taiwan.