Melissa Sower

Duality of the Mind

Senior Project April 2013

Artist Statement


A mental illness is all too often debilitating and has the capability of interfering with all aspects of one’s life. Having known individuals with certain mental illnesses and gaining a deep relationship with them inspired me to create my pieces. The three particular individuals represented possess three illnesses that affect the mind in a completely different manner (Social Anxiety Disorder, Bi-polar Disorder, and Alzheimer’s disease). Each of the three characters are represented at two different moments within the span of their illness. The anomaly in one’s mental psyche has the ability to take someone you once knew and transform them into a complete stranger right before your eyes. The second image for each character focuses on a brief escape or breakthrough made in one’s mental illness. These are the moments where a glimpse of hope and clarity is seen and the stranger of a mental anomaly suddenly disappears. The contrast in images and subject matter are representative of moments varying in severity in the cycle of a mental illness as well as coping mechanisms used by these individuals.


A mental illness does not or rather, should not, define who we are as human beings. A mental anomaly becomes a part of you that you must learn to live and cope with. This particular aspect of one’s self does not need to necessarily have a negative connotation, but can be used positively toward something else in life. For anyone living with a mental illness, I want you to find comfort that you are not alone and that there is hope for a better tomorrow. Those unaffected by a mental illness, it is important to understand the effects of stigma and discrimination. The struggles felt and the complexities dealt with by someone enduring a mental illness are not asked for, are not easy to handle at times, and can turn you against yourself at the drop of a dime. My intentions are to shed light on a topic that is rarely talked about and educate those who are uniformed of the issue.  


In order to successfully depict the darkness as well as the breakthrough of a mental anomaly, close attention to materials was made. The first images of each pair are drawn on black pastel paper and the second on tan. The tan paper allowed for more skin tone like qualities with lighter and brighter hues. The black paper allowed for a darker more muted character, enhancing the feeling of consumption and loss of one’s self. I was easily able to blend colors together with the use of charcoal and soft pastels, incorporating quick aggressive motions to produce a fitting atmosphere. Colors played a pivotal role in my pieces. The background colors are representative of the emotions experienced during both consumption and breakthrough of each mental illness. Compressed charcoal was imperative in order to produce deep, dark blacks that would contrast nicely with the bright, stark whites or softer colors.


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