The Art + Design Department partnered with six student-artists to present a virtual exhibition featuring comics centered around the theme of mental health. In response to the worldwide pandemic and the isolation, uncertainty, and worry that has come with it, the exhibition focuses on the familiar therapeutic quality that art holds for so many. The exhibition, Mental Health & Creativity, shares each artist’s own personal experience through a virtual exhibition setting, allowing viewers to enjoy the work from the comfort of home.
While the exhibition does display work by students of the Art + Design Department, it was not a mandatory assigned project. Jadie Arnett, a senior in the Graphic Design program, shares how her own personal experiences worked as inspiration for her featured piece,
I found out about this show because one of my illustration teachers reached out to me, saying that they were looking for work based around mental health. It wasn’t for class, but at that time I was at a real low in my life. I had a lot of negative changes happening, and did not have a good way to deal with these emotions. So having a reason to create something that reflected how I was feeling was the outlet that I needed. It’s based around not feeling good enough, hence the title. It was how past friends had made me feel, and what I kept telling myself.
While struggles with mental health can come along during any stage in life, the stress and pressures presented from juggling a heavy class load and work along with social expectations tend to make the topic of mental health especially relevant for those navigating college life. Muddling through daily activities while facing negative hits to your own mental health can mark some especially low points. “I wanted to portray how I felt by comparing my emotions to physical pain. Because I would have traded how I felt for the black eye and lump on my head in my piece,” Jadie adds.
The thing about mental health is, even when we have not been through the same situations as those we know and care about, it can be easy to see our own past traumas, and the feelings that followed, when struggles are shared with each other. The empathy that comes with understanding where someone else has been is what creates a sense of connection during difficult times. Sarah Powell, a double major in Illustration and Museum Studies, had the goal to create this sense of connection through their work,
I hope [viewers] can connect to the topics I covered and feel reassurance that they are not alone and that there is hope even through those struggles. And, if they have never experienced the things that I talk about in my work, then I hope these viewers can find compassion towards people who have. Two major themes in my work were finding information and looking for ways to deal with mental struggles and the huge help that support can be. Mental Health is such an important topic and the more we all share and support each other, then maybe we can find hope together.
Help is available for those dealing with mental distress. If you or someone you know is experiencing thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) for free and confidential support.
Taylor Ladd is a graduate assistant for the Department of Art + Design. She is working towards her master’s degree in writing at Missouri State University with professional interests in writing about art, culture, and food.