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Overcoming Autism: Hermosa Beach's Dane Capo has overcome medical obstacles to have his first solo art show at Gus Vintage Goods in Redondo Beach

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Dane Capo is currently working on one of his latest art projects – a portrait of The Beatles – that has artistic inspiration from French painter Henri Matisse. The 20-year-old Hermosa Beach resident began painting only four years ago and his first solo show opened last week at Gus Vintage Goods in Redondo Beach. The exhibit features paintings, mostly portraits with some pandas thrown in, that were also inspired by the impressionist painter.

When Capo was 10 months old, he was hospitalized for having seizures for nine days. He was diagnosed with a form of epilepsy, but the medications he was prescribed produced behavior difficulties. His seizures were so bad and he was taking so much medication, according to his mother Krista Capo, that he wasn't diagnosed with autism until he was 5 years old.

He attended Hermosa schools from kindergarten to fifth grade, when Krista and her husband Gary decided to remove Dane because the “district chose not to provide the customized education that he needed,” according to Krista. Amanda Wallace, the girlfriend of Dane's second home school teacher Aaron Beaumont, introduced Dane to art, and he never looked back.

It was a great confidence booster for him that he never experienced, maybe ever,” said Krista. “It gives him an outlet (where) he's competent and has pride and self-worth and a sense of community that is centered around who he is as a human. The opening night (when he first showed his work in El Segundo), watching him greet people and work a little bit as a salesman and just come alive and own it, he's never had that opportunity before because he kept being told what he couldn't do. The exciting part is to see his ownership as a person and not being defined by the autism or seizures, but by his own abilities.”

Dane likes numbers and has a fixation on the stock market, buying property, finding a full-time job and money in general. But he gets “happy and excited” when he paints.

I think the first one (painting) I did was Matisse,” said Dane, whose grandmother and sister are also artists and his father is a well-known cinematographer in Hollywood. “I like the colors he used and paintings that he did.”

Krista said it was his home school teachers who put Dane on the right path, but she never saw his artistic talent coming.

I was shocked. He's really good with numbers and memorization ... he remembers everything. I always thought that he'd end up in Vegas as a crook or programming or something,” Krista said jokingly. “To think he has this talent on the opposite side of the brain is crazy.”

Krista said Dane's seizures had stopped when he was 12 years old, but for some unclear reason they returned when he was 18. From January to June of this year, he was having upwards of 35 seizures a month, but luckily the seizures have subsided to once a month for the last three months. Oddly enough, he has had a seizure at 7 a.m. on the 28th over the past three months. She said the clusters are very unusual for someone Dane's age.

He got a job at Orchard (Supply Hardware), he was working in the gardening department and he was working with pesticides and the pollen and the dirt, and he's got pretty significant allergies,” she said. 'He was getting sick a lot and generally his seizures are induced by some sort of fever, illness, it always seems to coincide with something.”

Even with his medical issues, Dane is becoming increasingly independent. He has applied to numerous jobs including several Chipotle's around town and recently traveled alone on the Metro to their location at The Grove in Los Angeles.

I'm also applying to banks and airlines and government and film industry ... I keep applying to Disney,” Dane said.

His mother, who also writes a blog about her life with Dane at kristalynnette.com, encourages his independence and her son “wants to be part of the community he was born and raised in.”

For him it's the art, for me it's forging the way for people with disabilities,” she said.

Unemployment for adults with autism is around 90 percent, Krista said, and in general, employment for people with disabilities is “something nobody talks about.” Krista added an employer hiring Dane would get the benefit of a job coach, a trained professional who accompanies him to work to make sure of a “smooth and successful transition.”

There are around 500 people in Hermosa of employment age with disabilities,” Krista said, based on Census Bureau information. “Where are they? Do you see them? Could they have meaningful employment? Could they be integrated into community activities … I'd like to try to open that door and see where it leads up. Art has been a great avenue in which to start that conversation.”

Dane's work is currently on display at Gus, located at 209 Ave. I in Redondo Beach. He does not sell his original pieces, but reproductions along with shopping bags, greeting cards, postcards and magnets with some of his work are available for sale online at danecapo.com. They can also be found at Fringe in the Riviera Village, or Pages bookstore in Manhattan Beach.

For more information, visit danecapo.com.

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