Art is most often understood in terms of context – the situation, mindset, or particular set of circumstances in which the gestalt for a specific body of work transforms from a gnawing feeling in one’s gut to a fully formed and cohesive work of art in front of you. Art is also most often understood in terms of relationships. The relationship one has with a particular palette of colors, the relationship one has nurtured with the artist who has made the work of art, and the relationship one has developed with the subject matter of the work of art. Each relationship is unique and the number of relationships can be countless and largely depends on the number of people exposed to an artist’s body of work.
I present to you my own body of work, which is wholly traditional and at once foreign and unfamiliar. No one has seen the characters that I’ve created in this body of work, no one but me. In 2007 I was diagnosed with schizoaffective disorder; a fancy way of saying that I have schizophrenia and bipolar disorder at the same time. Coming to terms with the illness has taken years and the journey only really began when I started painting and drawing my hallucinations and psychotic episodes. The artwork is traditional in the sense that it follows the age-old practice of depicting that which is perceived. But this traditional approach is compounded by the fact that no one else sees what I see. Mental illness affects so many people but it’s so seldom talked about. As I’ve developed and grown both as an artist and as a person suffering from a mental illness I’ve often sat in amazement at how little the subject is discussed.
My artwork serves two purposes: one: as a form of personal therapy to come to terms with the monsters that follow me around, and the demons that plague me, and two: to give a presence and articulate nature to one of the most misunderstood aspects of mental illness – the hallucinations and psychotic episodes. I’ve been blessed with a unique insight into my illness. Most people suffering from similar illnesses are unable to describe the monsters and demons as vividly as I can. I can recall excruciating details about my psychotic episodes and I’m able to relate my hallucinations (auditory, visual, or otherwise) in a way that benefits me because it enables my doctors to better treat me. Though my work is primarily for myself, I believe I have a duty to share that work as a way to advocate for my less-functional peers and myself.
People don’t know what mental illness looks like. Most people like me spend most of their time in hiding, most people like me don’t have the level of functioning or the insight to be able to express the horrors they experience on a daily basis.
With my body of work I am depicting as vividly and honestly as possible the true face of psychosis – my psychosis; the monsters that follow me around, the psychotic episodes that have nearly broken me. It is my belief that in showing the true horrors of psychosis, in as literal a way as possible, a discussion might begin on the suffering of approximately 1% of the population.
These monsters are real; the demons that torment me at night are real. And the only way I can truly understand their particular nature is by drawing and painting them.