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Gregory L. Blackstock

Gregory at Work
Gregory L. Blackstock at work. Photograph by Philippe Lespinasse.

Gregory L. Blackstock

Artist Spotlight

Gregory L. Blackstock loves accordions. He was just ten years old when his father, himself an accordion player, enrolled him in the lessons that would begin a lifelong association with Petosa Accordions, a family-owned business in his hometown of Seattle.

Born in 1946, Gregory grew up in an era when the term autism was scarcely known. He spent five years in institutional schools far from family and worked menial jobs from his late teens until his retirement. In honor of his graduation from vocational school in 1964, Gregory’s father bought him his very own accordion, a 1963 Petosa Artist Model 1100 series. Although he now owns four Petosas (an artist model, a student model, and “an emergency backup” for each), he still regularly plays that fifty-year-old favorite.

60 Years of the Artist Model
Petosa Accordions
, 2011
Gregory frequently revisits music from his childhood, making hand-drawn, note-perfect sheet music from tunes he heard at the roller rink decades ago, simultaneously transposing the tune to a more difficult key. He often makes a decorative cover to enclose his new sheet music.

His art is another important tool Gregory uses to invite others into his world. He speaks energetically about his drawings to whoever will listen and often adds sound effects such as race boat engines, mimes irritations such as mosquitoes, or recounts bits of personal history embedded in or associated with many of his drawings, such as the accordions. Ironically, the factual detail of the subjects and their conversational utility seem to mean more to him than the physical art.

Through his drawings he fills his world with things that can be identified, ordered, and arranged, be they buildings, vegetables, or shoes. Once a grouping of similar objects is committed to paper, he is satisfied that it will remain fixed in a dependable taxonomy. When researching both historic and modern accordions for his drawings, Gregory spent hours at Petosa’s shop, asking endless questions
Insect Pest Classifications Presents:
The Mosquitoes
, 2013
and memorizing the unique grills, colors, and embellishments of each of these custom instruments, eager to translate them onto paper.

When asked about his own Petosa accordions, Gregory replies, “I TREASURE them!”

Sheet music cover
Hand-drawn sheet music

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