Keenu Hale, a 2010 graduate of High School North, is exhibiting “Hall of Hale” at Princeton University’s Gender & Sexuality Studies gallery at 113 Dickinson Hall. He will have a book signing for his newest book, “Timmy and the Stitchcrows,” on Monday, August 18. The exhibit is on view to Wednesday, September 10.
“As a young open-minded artist, I get inspiration for my creations and characters that come from everywhere,” says Hale. “My characters and stories originate from masterpieces created by different people whom I consider important; the dark creepy tales of Tim Burton to the mixed, odd slapstick humor of Jim Henson.”
“My style reflects my love of storytelling. Unlike most artists, I design stories that would amuse people as much as they amuse me,” he says. “I have enough open creativity in my heart and mind to explore the different worlds of the imagination and make them my own.”
Hale was born in 1992. His parents are Anthony James Hale of Chicago, Illinois, and Jennifer Jones-Grant of Hightstown. His life has been complicated by several near death experiences, including seizure disorders as an infant. He attended early intervention daycare at a young age and has been in the special needs class all of his school life.
“All his life he was diagnosed with multiple disabilities. At five he was tested for autism — it was ruled out,” says his mother. “In 10th grade he was tested again and the test revealed he was functioning high on the Asperger Syndrome scale.”
Hale was always interested in art, and his work was recognized from a young age. “Keenu always had a pen in his hand drawing on anything he could get his hands on,” says Jones-Grant. “Keenu is a prodigy.”
Hale, a student at the School of Visual Arts in New York City, has dreams of becoming an animator. “Keenu has overcome a lot of fears of traveling to and from New York, dealing with crowds, and so forth,” says Jones-Grant. “I love his determination.”
He has created more than 1,000 characters in various genres of cartoon styles. His story books include “Tales of Hale, Volume 1,” “Tales of Hale, Volume 2,” and “Timmy and the Stitchcrows in Life in the Suburbs.” Hale also volunteers for Homefront in Trenton. He teaches fundamentals of art to homeless children, ages 7 and up.
“He can dream up anything as well as do a cartoon version of anyone recognizable,” says Robert Hummel, a Plainsboro artist who has been working with him. “He is an amazing story creator, and big things are happening for him fast. His high-functioning autism makes him a creative genius and a brilliant writer.”
Hummel, who worked at the parade studio known for balloon creations for Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade in the past, plans to introduce Hale to the designers in their studio. “Everything is positively possible, to the ‘uneek’ mind of an artist like me,” says Hale. (Uneek is Keenu backward)
Hall of Hale, Princeton University, Gender & Sexuality Studies, 113 Dickinson Hall. Exhibit by On view to September 10. Booksigning on Monday, August 18, from noon to 2 p.m. 609-258-5430.