My most current research idea was sparked when I was asked to teach a class on the theory of form and the psychological study of perception as it relates to art and design. It was a fascinating class to create and present, with some topics I had never heard of or experienced before. The greatest challenge was finding sources. While I found a few, in general it was a very sparse topic, albeit a massively important one, since to design communications effectively one must understand how they will be perceived.
My past research has focused heavily on depression and it's interpretation through the arts, specifically graphic design and how it can be used to change conversations and combat social stigmas. I also studied the link between depression and the artist temperament, noting that periods of depression, or “blue” periods, correlate with periods of heightened artistic tendencies and creativity. Picasso and Vincent van Gogh are some of the most notable artists who have suffered this fate.
I asked myself why this happens, noting the same tendencies in my life, and began a series of paintings called the “black paintings”. I would catch myself during periods of depression or mania and use black Sumi ink on white paper and just paint my mind with my hands and feet. It was therapeutic and created some of my favorite abstract works.
Diving into myself like this opened up avenues previously unexplored and drove me to my thesis project, “For the Dragonfly”. It was a social experiment that asked participants to remember a time when they may have been ridiculed for having depression, suicidal tendencies, or other mood disorders. I wanted them to remember what family and friends had said to them in those moments, and then to write it on a paper dragonfly, fold it up, and set it free. It was always a sad but cathartic moment, reading “just kill yourself” “you have no reason to be sad” and “get over it”.
Working with this diverse range of people who shared these experiences took my breath away.
I want to move forward with the project, expanding research and exploring routes where design and depression meet, making viewers uncomfortable and forcing them to think about their actions. Hopefully, with enough work and time, I will be able to influence positive social change and help remove a stigma that has poisoned society for far too long.