Short bio, where are you from, what is your background?

Anwar Floyd-Pruitt is an artist, educator, and puppeteer from Milwaukee. A graduate of UW-Madison (MFA ’20), Floyd-Pruitt also earned a BFA from UW Milwaukee ('16) and BA in Psychology from Harvard University (’99). The Chazen Museum of Art, Edgewood College, Mount Mary University and MOWA recently hosted solo exhibitions of his collages, paintings, and abstract mixed-media self-portraits. In addition to leading puppet making workshops, Floyd-Pruitt writes and performs a family friendly singalong called Hip Hop Puppet Party. Most recently, Anwar was awarded a grant from the Jane Henson Foundation to engage LGBTQIA+ youth in puppetry.

Tell us about your project that is in the exhibition.

The work in the Collateral Damage exhibition is about and is related to a recent and personal experience of Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). The work originally appeared in a 2021 solo exhibition at Edgewood College, titled Usable Scraps.

What is your process like when you're making work?

My process for creating these pieces was quite physical. I was working on working on approximately 20 new objects at the same time. Many of them were quite large, multi-layered, or made from many smaller components that combined to create larger works. Each object ended up with multiple titles, many of which were culled from the lyrics and song titles of the music I was listening to in my studio while making the work.

How does mental health or wellness factor into the creation of your work?

I have been fortunate, from a productivity standpoint, that my mental health struggles have yet to slow down my practice. Creating art almost always feels like a healthy, positive step forward, and generates some feelings of wellness. The risk, however, is that getting necessary professional help can be delayed or deprioritized when I get hyper focused on the art. When I am making, everything feels like it will be okay, a placebo effect of sorts.

How did you begin this project?

I began this body of work with the idea of creating self-portraits that encompassed my personal experience from a variety of vantage points. There were portraits that spoke to anger and distress. Portraits that spoke to fear. Portraits that spoke to escapism and unsustainable forms of coping. Other portraits attempted to put me in others’ shoes. Self portraits of myself as my parents and my siblings, spoke to the support system that I am so fortunate to have but also made me question why I wasn’t taking advantage of more healing opportunities afforded by my family. My hope was that I would experience a cathartic moment.

Was the process of creating this project helpful for dealing with the emotion or issue you're describing in your images?

The process of creating this work was helpful for reflecting on the trauma and my response to it. Talking honestly about the work and the traumatic experiences that lead to the works creation has also been healing in ways, partially because having conversations often resulted in fewer feelings of isolation.

Has the pandemic shifted the way you approach your work at all?

Stuck at home, the pandemic initially forced me to make smaller objects. Shelter in place also led to increased time working on smaller scale puppets for video work, instead of large scale puppets for live public performances.

Has the stigma around mental health affected your art practice?

Stigma around mental health struggles has led me to consider titling in a new light and created new naming conventions for me, where I assign works multiple titles. Some titles may be very direct references to experiences and ideas are not always easy to share, while other titles are more general and vague, devoid of language that explicitly shares my struggles with viewers.

How has stigma affected your life in general?

I have shared in the past and not felt heard, not felt seen, not felt understood, and not felt validated. These experiences contributed to the negative effects of stigma and made it more difficult to broach certain subjects in future interactions. I have encountered some family and friends, who despite their care and love for me, I have not felt comfortable or safe sharing my mental health concerns or struggles with them. Some friendships have been put on hold for decades. That hurts, but that’s to be okay. We all, sometimes, fear/struggle with what we do not understand.

How do you think Art could help end stigma around mental illness and mental health?

I do believe art can play a positive role in ending stigma around mental health and mental illness. I think the subtle and metaphorical, often found in artistic expression, needs to be balanced with the direct and practical, in attempt to offer a wholistic view, where potentially more viewers can connect with the work. There is also the role of expressive art therapies, where the making, itself, can play a healing and normalizing role, independent of an audience for he work.

Is there anything else you would like folks viewing your work to know about it or in general? What are your closing thoughts?

My experience with mental health and mental illness is wide ranging and has covered a number of decades. From a depressed and medicated teenager to an ADHD diagnosis in adulthood, I have also been friends, colleagues, partners, and roommates with individuals who also experienced poor mental health. Some have even committed suicide. Compassion, education, and open mindedness are key to being there for others and being there for yourself.

Powered by SmugMug Owner Log In