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

I am originally from the Long Beach/Huntington Beach area of Southern CA. My background is primarily in poetry, but I have also been a freelance writer for arts & culture magazines for the past 15 years. I’ve been making art unprofessionally since college.

Tell us about your project that is in the exhibition.

I created a mixed media mosaic and two poems that I thought fit the theme of “collateral damage” – a term largely associated with negative connotations. I guess the work aimed to humanize those negative connotations a bit. What is your process like when you’re making work? It depends. If I’m working on a paper collage or mosaic, I typically start by sketching out an image, brainstorming the color palette and materials, and then add the text last. If I’m making mail art, I start by sifting through my accordion files of magazine scraps and clippings, looking for images, colors, or patterns that go together. I compose them on postcard-sized cardstock until I’m happy with the arrangement and then start embellishing with washi tape, ephemera I’ve collected over the years, string, thread, and type-written text. If I’m just focused on writing a poem, I usually start with an image or line that has somehow lodged itself in my head and needs somewhere to go. I work out from that initial line and just see where it takes me!

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

I don’t feel well or mentally healthy if I’m not creating in some way. So I guess you could say that my mental health depends on my ability to create work. I honestly wouldn’t know how to function if I weren’t regularly writing or making things with my hands. The two go hand in hand; they cannot be separated from one another. I hope that makes sense. How did you begin this project? When conceptualizing this piece, I knew I wanted it to be mixed media, and I knew that I wanted to incorporate text. I kept thinking of all the different ways the pandemic has caused us to feel so profoundly and fundamentally alone. Not unlike what it feels like to deal with mental illness, addiction, trauma, grief, sexual assault... I kept imagining people trying to grocery shop on some remote, isolated planet, hungry for someone who understood, desperate to fill their cart – literally and metaphorically, of course. Outer space seemed a suitable backdrop, as loneliness can sometimes feel like an endless, vicious vacuum. The typewritten balloons serve a dual purpose: anchors of thought and inspiration that also threaten to spirit one away into the outer reaches of the universe – never to be heard from again – should they somehow come untethered. The title of the piece is a play on an epigraph from the book Quit Like a Woman: The Radical Choice to Not Drink in a Culture Obsessed with Alcohol by Holly Whitaker. The book was a gift from my good friend and fellow child of winter, Vic Maidhof, who knows how deeply I have battled the beast of alcohol for the vast majority of my life. The original quote, from Tessa Forrest reads, “You are entirely up to you.” I upped the ante by changing the pronouns – an attempt to own everything I’ve ever denied about myself. The two poems are recent, unpublished works that I revised just slightly for inclusion in this project. I hope they speak for themselves.

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

Every work of art or poem I create is helpful in dealing with my emotions and issues, as I tried to explain in the question about mental health and wellness. Writing and making art is how I process information and the events of my life. Has the pandemic shifted the way you approach your work at all? Not really. I want to actually thank the pandemic for allowing me to slow down and spend more time with my family and my art. Time is a luxury we are not often gifted. Has the stigma around mental health affected your art practice? Again, not really because I use the negative aspects of my mental health to drive my art practice. I do not believe that one must suffer in order to make art, but suffering certainly provides ample fuel to do just that. How has stigma affected your life in general? I grew up believing that depression, anxiety, and addiction were signs of weakness – shameful and not to be spoken about. I believed that if I struggled with these things, it was my own fault. As you can imagine, believing that really did a number on my personal relationships and self-esteem. I didn’t talk to anyone about my feelings or struggles with anxiety, depression, and trauma. I tucked these things away and tried not to explode. Enter alcohol. Enter escape. I have spent the better part of the last decade trying desperately to undo the consequences of these toxic beliefs.

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

Countless examples (i.e. racism, sexism, sexual assault, inequality of any sort) has shown us that normalizing a thing, bringing it into the light is the first step to ending vicious cycles and enacting real change. Art has real power to do just that: normalize mental illness, bring it into the light, let’s help people who are suffering! Is there anything else you would like folks viewing your work to know about it or in general? What are your closing thoughts? Thank you for the opportunity to be involved in this art show. It means a lot. I am humbled to be amongst such amazing artists and humans.

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

Thank you for the opportunity to be involved in this art show. It means a lot. I am humbled to be amongst such amazing artists and humans.

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