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Illustrated Word

During my experience in undergrad, there were three times when I was so overwhelmed with emotions that they overflowed into a poem - the first was joyful, the latter two were much heavier. While I am a creative person and do enjoy writing, I have never been very big on writing poetry, which makes these three works even more distinct. In this Seminar Project, I created a layered piece illustrating each of the three poems. I have included shortcuts to the corresponding posts of my site blog featuring the full text of each accompanying poem.

If I Were a Tree

The first poem, “If I Were a Tree,” was written in the first month of my freshman year at Assumption after an interview for a work-study position. The last question my interviewer asked me was “If you were a tree, what kind of tree would you be and why?” and as I was walking back to my dorm my mind was so full of possibilities that I wrote this poem.

This work was selected to be a part of the 17th Annual Arts Worcester College show and it and the titular poem were included in the 2021 edition of Muse, Assumption University's student literary magazine.

A Deteriorating Soul Compares Herself to a Pumpkin

The second poem, “A Deteriorating Soul Compares Herself to A Pumpkin,” was written in the October of my sophomore year. It is styled in free verse as opposed to stanzas and contains quite a bit of specific situational information, which perhaps makes it a bit less relatable. I don’t remember the exact scenario that prompted it, but it was towards the beginning of my realization that I was struggling with depression and was a very raw account of how I was allowing my struggles to consume me.

I'm Not Broken

The third poem, “I’m Not Broken,” was also prompted by my depression. I wrote it after attending a performance of the spoken word. While the experience was undeniably beautiful, so many of the poems presented focused on the struggles and pains the writers had been through, and it drove me to tears because there wasn’t anything I could do to help or even comfort these people. It also made me feel guilty for my own dysfunctionality when I had never had to deal with anything like what my peers had gone through. Even as a psychology minor, I'm still struggling with the reality that mental illness is something beyond my control.

Artist Statement

Anchor 1

This was a highly emotional project for me because it was my first attempt at opening up and letting people see into my struggle with depression - the subject of the second two pieces in the series. I shared the first poem with a couple people, but I had never shared the other two poems with anyone. I want to be a supportive person and part of that is that I don't want to bring anyone down with the consideration of my issues, especially when it feels like I’m the one who’s bringing them on myself. I have only partially told a handful of my friends that I'm dealing with depression and anxiety because, even when I convince myself that it would be better for everyone if I just told people what’s going on, I can’t ever find a chance to bring it up. Part of the challenge with depression is that it’s not like I'm sad all the time, and more often than not I isolate myself when I do feel down, so typically what people see is just me being normal and enthusiastic, or at most overwhelmed and tired. This project was my opportunity to openly express myself though a medium I am very comfortable with and a platform to display it, though the pandemic got in the way of having a proper art show. Even though I don’t like making sad works of art, I know that the pressure to pretend you’re perfect, or even to believe someone else is perfect, can be overwhelming, and I hope that by being vulnerable in this way I can touch those who may be experiencing similar turmoil.

Each of these poems is presented in exactly as written, and therefore they capture a single specific moment in my journey. To further represent my state of mind, I have chosen a layered approach. The middle layer, which is the most figural, contains a symbolic illustration that captures the heart of each poem. The colors of these images are rich and imaginative rather than naturalistic; I love playing with colors, especially those that are particularly vibrant. To this end I blocked in a base color with marker and then went over it to add highlights, shadows, and other detail-work with colored pencils. The negative space surrounding this figure has been carved into a net of patterns, an element I include in most of my art. Creating art in general helps calm me when I am upset or overwhelmed, but I have found that the creation of these patterns in particular, which is an at once a mindless and deliberate task, is especially therapeutic, and therefore it fits in directly with the theme of this project. Through the negative space of these patterns you can see the third layer, which is simply a field of colors, representing the chaos of emotion. The top layer presents the full text of the poem illustrated, which is handwritten in Sharpie on acetate. While the patterns were undoubtedly the most time consuming part of this project, writing these poems over and over again was the most difficult, specifically for the latter two, because it meant that I had to spend hours concentrating on and repeating these emotion packed words, and by the time I was done with each I had nearly memorized each poem. I chose to present each poem as an almost indistinct field because, even though I used them in these circumstances to embody my current internal experience, I find that words tend to serve as an obstruction between what I feel and what I am able to share with others. This overall motif of hiddenness or masking is represented by the use of layers. (2020)

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