Years ago, David Rogers dreaded reading in front of his classmates.
Diagnosed in second grade with dyslexia — described by The International Dyslexia Association as a condition "characterized by difficulties with accurate and/or fluent word recognition and by poor spelling and decoding abilities" — Rogers took longer than his peers to build and retain vocabulary. He would occasionally mistake one word for another and required extra time to read and process text. As such, reading aloud in class became a source of deep anxiety in his formative years.
"I would count the number of chairs in front me and figure out which paragraph I'd be reading, and I'd practice until it was my turn," said Rogers, a graphic design instructor at Minnesota State University who is giving an artist talk, "Dyslexia as a Catalyst," today at the 410 Project art gallery.
"I remember just butchering what I was reading. It was painful."
With a supportive upbringing, however, Rogers developed a sense of self-awareness and comfortability with his dyslexia. The condition certainly didn't stop him from graduating from the University of Iowa, where he pursued education, Spanish and, eventually, graphic design.
But it wasn't until Rogers began pursuing a master's degree in design that he also began exploring his dyslexia through art. He even based the works for his thesis off the very thing that used to cause him so much anxiety: reading mistakes. He would take notes of the words and phrases he mixed up and later incorporate them into his work.
"As I began gearing up for grad school," he said, "I started thinking about: What makes me, me?
And though the connection may not be immediately apparent in his art, Rogers said much of his work has some connection to that exploration.
Utilizing a variety of media and processes, both of the technological and handmade variety, Rogers work retains a certain architectural quality, with each layer adding depth, dimension and interaction to the next. Very often his works hinge on the relationship between light and surface, or the competing dynamics of disparate media.