Sculptor · Prodigious Savant
Alonzo Clemons modeling one of his clay sculptures
In the early 1980's, the movie Rain Man,
which featured Dustin Hoffman in the role of a disabled man with
remarkable skills of memory, brought national attention to a phenomenon
known as Savant Syndrome. People with Savant Syndrome have both
a developmental disability (mental retardation or autism) and a
spectacular, genius-level skill in a specific area.
The interest in savants created by the Rain Man
character resulted in several television specials on the subject
that featured some of the real savants in the country. One of these
individuals was Alonzo Clemons, an artist known for producing marvelous
animal sculptures from memory alone. His appearance on the shows
including 60 Minutes, Geraldo
and the Discovery Channel's World of Wonder provided
Clemons with the exposure which gave the opportunity to become represented
in fine arts galleries and gain worldwide recognition for his work.
Dr. Darold Treffert, America's leading expert on
the Savant Syndrome served as a consultant to Dustin Hoffman for
his role in the Rain Man and also is a personal
friend of Alonzo Clemons.
Dr. Treffert writes this about the Savant Syndrome:
Savant Syndrome is a rare, but spectacular, condition in which
persons with various developmental disabilities have astonishing
islands of ability or brilliance that stand in stark, markedly
incongruous, contrast to the handicap (talented savants).
In others, with a much rarer form
of the condition, the ability is not only spectacular in contrast
to the handicap, but would be spectacular even if viewed in
a normal person (prodigious savant).
There are fewer
than 100 reported cases of prodigious savants in world literature.
There a probably fewer than 25 prodigious savants living at
the present time. Some of those include Leslie Lemke (music),
Alonzo Clemons (sculpting), Richard Wawro (painting), Stephen
Wilshire (drawing) and Tony DeBlois (music).
An online studio of Alonzos Clemons' artwork can
be seen by clicking on the thumbnail below
More information about the Savant Syndrome is available in
the following resources:
The book EXTRAORDINARY PEOPLE: UNDRSTANDING SAVANT SYNDROME
by Dr. Darold A. Treffert
An entire chapter is devoted to Alonzo Clemons.
Available through the http://www.iuniverse.com/
The magazine SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, “ Islands of Genius,”
by Dr. Darold A. Treffert and Gregory Wallace.
The Wisconsin Medical Society web site page titled "Savant
Syndrome: Frequently Asked Questions," by Dr. Darold A. Treffert
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