Art and Mental Health

Mental Health, Performance Art

So pre-warning, this one might get a little heavy but there’s also a lot of hope and good stuff too so I hope you’ll stick around.

A couple of months ago while idly scrolling through Facebook instead of working (we all do it!) I spotted a flyer advertising a safe space for identifying women who had suffered or were suffering with their mental health to explore art as a form of expression. I was immediately into the idea and messaged them, admitting my day job may get in the way a smidge and they welcomed me to the sessions with open arms (although I was late almost every time).

What I found there was a community of strong ladies who had been through the wringer but who were still vibrant, funny and just trying to live in a world where stigma surrounds various mental illnesses constantly. I felt at home.

I’ve been suffering with depression and anxiety since my teenage years. It was fobbed off as teenage angst over and over until I passed out at the top of a flight of stairs. The concept of me physically injuring myself was what prompted deeper investigation and eventually I was diagnosed properly. My story is not uncommon and that’s what is so painful about it.

The sessions are run by an art collective called Love Moore and they’re funded by Revoluton Arts. The idea of the sessions is not only to help us work through some demons with some other wonderful people around us but to create and art show that helped break down some of the stereo types and stigma surrounding mental health.

IMG_0115

Working on what our internal critic might look like.

We explored a whole range of ideas including giving our internal voice that berates us a persona so we could mock it mercilessly, we created beautiful plates based of painful memories and broke them on film to release ourselves of that burden and we filmed a 360 degree video of all of us sharing affirmations in a coven style circle. In between all of this there was meditation, innuendo word association and so much laughing.

The show (titled Grimoire by our group) was in a local night club that a lot of us had attended over the years and for me it was a reminder of being diagnosed and the good times that were had there as well. Full circle kind of thing, ya know?

We included the 360 degree video as a VR experience where people wearing goggles and headphones could turn to see and hear us whispering our words to them. The videos of us smashing plates were played from various angles on loop throughout the night and the plates we broke were on display and ground into dust on the spot before being put into bottles as souvenirs for our visitors.

IMG_0108

The VR experience included headphones and a swivel chair to explore movement.

Over the course of the evening I heard some wonderful conversations about how people had never seen anything like this locally before, both in terms of the art and the discussion of mental health. Sometimes it isn’t enough to just try and talk about mental health, sometimes a visual representation can spark conversations and realizations that someone has never had before.

As someone who runs more workshops than she attends this was a special experience for me. I hope we can expand this loving family and help others, there is already talk of a group set up for identifying men as well (As suicide is the biggest killer of men aged 20-49).

If there are no groups like this near you, I urge you to try and start one, even if it’s online. Having a support network of people who understand when you’re having a REALLY bad day is invaluable and I’ve made new friends I never want to lose touch with. I’m sure this won’t be the last post I write on the topic of mental health and that’s ok, because it’s never just one conversation that changes the world. But it’s a start.

Some external sources to help if you need it

Samaritans

Mind

CALM

And More listed on NHS Choices.

IMG_0109

Art and the music scene

Illustration, Music

So the title of this is post sounds like some kind of weird band name already but I guess that’s already a good sign.

I was asked recently to produce a poster for a local music promotion group (luton Live/s) to advertise a show in one of the nearby independent pubs. I jumped at the chance for a whole tonne of reasons. Firstly the chap who asked for the poster is a dear friend, secondly another dear friend was in one of the bands on the bill, thirdly the culture in the local area is struggling and lastly I really REALLY wanted to see my artwork in the window of my favourite record shop of my teenage years.

Around this time I was also accepted into an art show by a local group (The Circus of Illustration) whose theme just so happened to be fantasy record sleeves.

So suddenly everything in my life was very musically inclined.

I’ve always been inspired by more illustrative driven posters for obvious reasons. The washed out grimy band photo with unreadable text just doesn’t do it for me. Luckily I was given free reign on the show poster apart from a carnival-esque fortune teller style poster which I feel I followed to the letter. It was going very well until I accidentally flattened my PSD and had to re do all the lettering from scratch (with the help of G).

Fortune Teller

With that out of the way I had time to focus on my piece for the Off The Record show. Again I went the highly illustrated route and couldn’t help carry over some of the mystic vibes I was exploring in the poster although this time with a more refined and pagan tone.

lupine

I met a lot of people doing these two projects, which is always refreshing considering how insular illustrating outside of a studio or collective can be. It made me realize just how connected the music scene and the art scene could be if we all just tried a little harder. I feel there’s a resurgence of DIY culture in progress right now with more and more musicians realizing they don’t want to be signed to a traditional label with dreary posters and album covers or even play traditional gigs. Zines are seeing a massive boom once again and I personally can’t get enough of making and reading them. I’ve been passing this on through some of my workshops with younger people as again they’re realizing they can actually publish these entirely by themselves.

I don’t club or go to gigs much anymore, more or less since I had to leave university. But finding these communities again has revived a love of live music for me at least.

And yes, the poster did get pride of place in the record shop window and remained there for weeks after the gig. ❤