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

I’m a Lithuanian and Irish conceptual artist based in Chicago, IL. I received an Associates degree in psychology from North Park University and a Bachelor’s degree in Photography from Columbia College.

Tell us about your project that is in the exhibition.

Drawn to their beautiful fragility, I have collected photographs of flowers from across the country. When housebound, I took my art towards conceptual images of found beauty. The photos united are unreal and take you to an imaginary world.

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

When choosing the photos I want to work with, I search for colors that will compliment each other. It depends on what I want the mood of the image to be, but it’s usually the mood I’m in. The labor of the work is in the details such as, the angles of certain aspects and digitally cutting, copying, and pasting everything together.

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

This work makes me feel accomplished, to know that I can still create beauty in the world. I take great strides in my work when I’m hypo-manic and when I’m depressed I can use this as a coping mechanism.

How did you begin this project?

During a summer semester of art school there was a chosen assignment. I was inspired by the kids that could use multiple photos to create one intricate image. I’d always been drawn to kaleidoscopes and I wanted to use beautiful images of flowers that, in the real world, often fade into the colors of the background. I turned it into something that stood out. It was rewarding so I decided to master that craft.

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

Making an image is a coping mechanism for sure. However, when I create an image I can look at it and remember who I made it for, even if they don’t know I made it for them. I can look at it and remember all my present emotions that held my attention during the creative process. When I look at these images I see them as beautiful memories instead of negative emotions.

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

Yes, I feel empowered that, even when forced to, I’m able to make something beautiful all by myself. Without the pandemic I don’t think these photos would be in the universe.

Has the stigma around mental health affected your art practice? The stigma around mental health makes it hard for me to be honest, even to my family, about what I’m struggling with. I’ve always been more reserved around most people and it’s because I’m scared to be vulnerable. These images, and their titles are an inside look to peak at my most intimate feelings. I usually make a piece when I’m really happy or really sad. I tend to get stuck when I’m feeling steady. That’s also hard because it perpetuates the mentality that this work relies on the instability of my mental health.

How has stigma affected your life in general?

In my childhood it turned friends away from me because I was “too much.” I was just a kid whose parents were doing more than most to help me. In that way I was lucky. I just turned 30 and I’ve just become comfortable this past year with being more open about my mental health struggles. I think this is because I feel like I’ve conquered being victim to my feelings. It’s strange because now that I’ve come out of hospitals and institutions I feel comfortable being more open about my struggles. I think the biggest judge of my mental illness is myself. I learned from stigma that working on my mental illness isn’t something to be proud of in the face of it but I should be proud of pushing past it, which is not at all true. It’s a constant battle that I struggle with every day. Even when I am happy it’s hard to grapple the fact that this will never go away. I’m not sad that it’s forever, I just want to be a pillar of strength for others. How do you think Art could help end stigma around mental illness and mental health? I think art is the most honest form of who we are. For instance, my most recent work was made in hiding. This wasn’t only due to the pandemic but also because of my anxiety and the way I second guess myself in situations. Therefore, if everyone made some form of art we could each have a glance of intimacy. Now that two people are vulnerable, it’s easier to bond.

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

My only closing thought is that I believe people should pay attention to the details. It’s the easiest way to help someone.

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