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Jerusalem gains perspective

by Ziva May 21 2008
Stephen Wiltshire draws Tokyo

"The Human Camera" has landed in Jerusalem. Or at least, he has circled above it and surveyed our holy streets. Sounds like something straight out of Marvel comics, but this is real life. A real man. An accomplished artist. And an extraordinary talent - or, dare we say, power.

Internationally renown British cityscape illustrator Stephen Wiltshire has come to cast his eye and hand across the city of Jerusalem in honor of its 40th anniversary of reunification. Wiltshire has garnered much critical attention for his large-scale, hand-drawn replicas of such congested cities as London, New York, Tokyo and Rome, because he recreates the cities - down to their very last street corner - after surveying the areas from a helicopter for just an hour or two. If you don't believe us, check out this amazing video on YouTube showing Wiltshire's artistic practice in action in Rome. The exact duplicate of the Colosseum - and we mean exact - is just incredible.

Identified at age three as autistic, Wiltshire's creative and developmental outlet was quickly recognized through his complicated and realistic drawings of scenes and objects ranging from animals to London's buses to buildings. Yeah, we didn't mention the autism factor until paragraph three, and Queen Elizabeth II didn't do so at all two years ago when she dubbed Wiltshire a Member of the Order of the British Empire, in recognition of his services to the art world.

Wiltshire's first word, at age eight, was "paper," and ever since then, he's been producing artwork that has been featured in documentaries, galleries, exhibitions and books around the globe. In addition to demonstrating his amazing abilities in cities across the globe, Wiltshire also promotes autistic research and awareness and runs creative workshops for children with autism.

Having landed in Israel this past Sunday, Wiltshire spent one hour flying over Jerusalem and studying our sacred city. He will spend the next few days recreating the city from memory on a four-meter-long canvas - and we're pretty darn sure he'll have all the right stones in their ancient quarters. The finished masterpiece will be auctioned off with a portion of the proceeds going to support child education and autism research in Israel. Wiltshire will also lead art activities for children with autism at two schools in Jerusalem during his four-day visit.

Above, Stephen Wiltshire draws Tokyo as part of a BBC documentary on his artwork and creative process called
Extraordinary People: The Human Camera.

Ziva Haller Rubenstein writes about art and design in, by and from Israel on her blog Designist Dream and for other leading blogs and websites.

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