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Author: admin | Category: Fish Tattoo | 01.09.2015

I am embarking on a loose but very significant journey studying the role of  psychoanalysis in art through several different, little prisms. For this first article, I want to talk broadly and personally, telling of my own experiences, how my mental illness has effected life as a poet, as well as my life as a visual artist who dapples in photomontage and collage work. During a very serious bout with Bipolar Depression when I was experiencing heightened thoughts of suicide and self-punishment, I read Julia Kristeva’s book, Black Sun: Depression and Melancholia. In the Introduction to Kay Redfield Jamison’s book, Touched with Fire, she writes: “That impassioned moods, shattered reason, and the artistic temperament can be welded into a ‘fine madness’ remains a fiercely controversial belief. Even before my formal and very overdue diagnosis of my Bipolar in 2007, I was dealing with it in my own way. Looking back, this was my own way of creating an order out of the chaos that was within me. My Ohio Lonely series of poems and photomontages were my artistic way of getting to know my family so secretly plagued with the complex emotional life I was leading. During this time and still now, I try to find a creative order in what is chaos to me, and erasures were another way for me to do this.
Another issue I will address in this series is how many times medication is often avoided out of a fear of losing one’s creative mode and space. Stability and order (even if that order is chaotic to others) is a very important part of being well as a Bipolar sufferer, and I would speculate this is the case with most if not all mental illness.
This 1919 art review by Christian Brinton (1870 - 1942) covered the first public exhibition of the British War Artists to be shown on American shores.
In my last article, “Artists, Bipolar, and the Role of Medication”, I spoke openly about my own experiences as an artist who suffers from Bipolar. In the years since being diagnosed, I began my own research on Bipolar, finding several studies of the direct correlation in my Bipolar episodes of either hypomania or depression and my creativity.
Of late, going in and out of deep depressions and hypomanic nights here and there, I find it difficult to speak to people, to interact with the world.
Senses are heightened in these states, so is that why so many artists find their illness something that is at once a blessing (for their creative work) and a curse (for living day to day)? An infinite number of misfortunes weigh us down everyday … All this suddenly gives me another life.
This passage was everything to me when I discovered it, almost becoming a mantra in a sense, to justify my existence and my deep and complex feelings of ending that existence. In the section of the book called, “Is Mood a Language?” Kristeva writes, “Sadness is the fundamental mood of depression, and even if manic euphoria alternates with it the bipolar forms of that ailment, sorrow is the major outward sign that gives away the desperate person” (21). Black Sun continues as a heady adventure into both psychology and philosophy in Kristeva’s aim to better understand and discuss it. The scientific study of the controversial relation of creativity and illness, psychiatrist Arnold M. The book continues to outline meticulously Ludwig’s well-supported contention of the relation between creative people and illness. So what does this mean in our topic at hand for this column and for Ludwig’s groundbreaking study of this controversial kinship of illness and creative work?
Jamison opens the book with a quotation from the Romantic poet, Lord Byron: “‘We of the craft are all crazy.
Like Ludwig, Jamison includes some graphs in this study also coming from the scientific perspective of psychiatry. Recently, more systematic biographical research has given strong support to a much higher rate of mood disorders in artistic populations than could be expected from chance alone. Jamison’s book continues with graphs and close studies of both living and dead artists and writers that truly gives a backbone to her argument of the existence of the “fine madness” and creative production. Reading these books, one can get a handle on the controversial notion of the relation between artists and mental illness.
When art is used to empower the dispossessed and the scorned; especially in a country that counts the darkness of your skin as less than beautiful. Sign up for our newsletter, and you'll receive a free digital special report about collecting landscape paintings.
Dieul painted her first mouse portrait in 2011, and to date she has sold more than 200 of them.
The Montreal painter was born in France and studied art there at L’Ecole des Beaux-Arts and Studio Escalier.
Southwest Art March 2014 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story! Suchitra Bhosle creates contemplative scenes inspired by her California surroundings and her native India. Mikyoung Ahn Osburn grew up in the countryside of South Korea, fascinated more by drawing and painting than by playing outside. Southwest Art October 2015 print issue or digital download Or subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss a story!
In this ongoing feature, I will review books on the subject of creativity and its connection with mental illness. The majority of my poems, especially those in my poetry collections came from my illness, out of it. At sixteen, my treasured aunt, Shirley Ann McCurdy, passed away after a battle with cancer.
Most people find the thought that a destructive, often psychotic, and frequently lethal disease such as manic-depressive illness might convey certain advantages … counterintuitive” (3).
I dealt with it as a sixteen-year-old, in my Twenties, and so on even though there was no name for it since I did not know what that thing was that took me over so often. Much of this was written when I was not yet formally diagnosed with Bipolar, spanning the Summer of 2005 till about summer of 2008.
The resemblance my Aunt Shirley and I shared was a constant comment within my family, so my montage piece, Bipolar, shows both our illness visually and our striking physical resemblance, a resemblance that went into our cores as Bipolar suffers. These are gentle, realization poems whereas my poems in The Chase were written while manic or depressed, ending on a couple that came with new love and a healthier way of life that I found with a supportive lover, a great psychologist, and Buddhism. I learned about erasures from my friend and former professor, poet Mary Ruefle with her book of erasures, A Little White Shadow. This is an issue that is rarely discussed, but one that needs to be discussed because it is a very real consideration for any creative person suffering from illness that require medication — mental or physical. This article did exactly what I intended it to do: begin a discussion of the issues surrounding Bipolar and the creative imagination. When I began to take medications such as mood stabilizers and anti-depressants, I began to sense my creativity lagging, leading me (right or wrong) to eventually cease my use of medication.

In these states, I feel odd and hazy, as if I am not a person but a shadow who watches the world living around me.
My research has led me to three books that I have found helpful, fascinating, and truly comforting.
I am a longtime fan of all of her work; it is intriguing and engaging, her writing always poised with a poetic sensibility.
A life that is unlivable, heavy with daily sorrow, tears held back or shed, a total despair, scorching at times, than wan and empty.
In literature, Kristeva ponders the mood of the resulting artwork, the mood language if you will, “The ‘semiotic’ and the ‘symbolic’ become the communicable imprints of an affective reality, perceptible to a reader (I like this book because it conveys sadness, anguish, or joy) and yet dominated, set aside, vanquished” (22).
One of the most intriguing studies he does is an absolute part of my study of this topic as a poet, a “chicken or the egg” notion. His scientific approaches and research-ridden The Price of Greatness shows again and again this connection, becoming a sort of comfort for myself and most likely many others. But instead of more generalized findings, she focuses some of her graphs on specific artists in history (such as Vincent Van Gogh) to illustrate their mental difficulties and creative production. Diagnostic and psycho-logical studies of living writers and artists, conducted during the past twenty years, give more scientifically meaningful estimates of the rates and types of psychopathology in groups of artists and writers. These books are all engaging and accessible reads in their deep musings about artists who have suffered from both mental and physical illness. She's a lover of her very Jamaican family, music, cinema, different cultures, travel, basketball, and down to earth folk. Get the Southwest Art March 2014 print issue or digital download now–then subscribe to Southwest Art and never miss another story! But Canadian painter Marina Dieul readily admits that the origin of her series of imaginative mouse paintings springs from these invading household pests. In addition to her animal series, Dieul is known for her award-winning portraits that feature the human species. Of course this is not always the case for every artist, but it is a subject near and dear to me as a Bipolar poet. My poems, to me, are files of my existence with Bipolar, my case study of moments with my illness.
The cancer came after her lifelong battle as a Bipolar sufferer who went undiagnosed as a result of the stigma of her illness.
As a suffering artist myself, I can attest that my most creative and highly productive moments have been during a hypomanic state. Another piece in the series, Self-Portrait with Shirley and Bangs, is a piece that tells the story of my aunt being the only person I trusted throughout my entire life to cut my bangs.
The idea is to take a found text and black out or white out parts of the text to create a new narrative, image, or meaning.
I will be addressing this issue from the perspective I know, that of mental illness and Bipolar. I am very pleased by this discussion and hope it continues throughout this series where I will discuss the relation between mental illness and creativity.
I am coming around again to wanting to take medication again since it is very difficult to live with this illness unmedicated. The only good thing that comes of this is an inexplicable solitude in all moments of my days that cause my senses to be heightened, causing me to observe so many things around me that I would normally not be “able” to see. She is prolific in her work, writing everything from novels, to philosophical works, to criticism, even touching on mental illness in Black Sun from 1989.
In short, a devitalized  existence that, although occasionally fired by the effort I make  to prolong it, is ready at any moment for a plunge into death (4).
She also writes, “… the power of the events that create my depression is often out of proportion to the disaster that suddenly overwhelms me” (4).
Written in an engaging, almost journalistic, essay fashion, this markedly scientific work is readable and understandable to all readers.
In the section, “What Precedes What,” Ludwig shows his extensive research to see when instances of mental illnesses relates with a creative accomplishment.
The charts I am picturing here show these sobering statistics he gathered in the years he worked on this study. This is the springboard for Jamison’s study of the relation between Bipolar (aka: Manic-Depression) and creativity.
She also includes a chart that encompasses seasonal effects on artists and writers and their moods relating to their creativity. Finally, studies of creative and related achievement in affectively ill patients provide corroborating evidence from a different perspective, as do family studies of psychopathology and creative accomplishment (56). They will always be a great comfort to me, books I will return to again and again so that I may stay informed in a secure footing that truly makes a priceless difference in my life as a Bipolar poet.
She's especially passionate about equality in the LGBTQ community particularly as it relates to people of the African Diaspora. The “mousterpiece” series led Dieul to create additional miniatures depicting piglets, bunnies, and baby chickens—often inspired by children’s books. She is a member of the International Guild of Realism and the Portrait Society of Canada, as well as the Portrait Society of America, which recently presented her with an Award of Exceptional Merit in its annual international competition. Osburn earned a bachelor’s degree in graphic design and for 10 years worked in the design world, but throughout that time she felt a desire to create her own works of art. Inspired by the impressionistic works of van Gogh, she first took classes in the classical style but eventually moved into abstraction, looking for a modern feel. Reading these books and studying this connection brought a lot of comfort to my often uncomfortable existence as a Bipolar sufferer. My visual art is an extension of these poems, when words began to feel like they needed an even deeper visual life. Ludwig’s The Price of Greatness: Resolving the Creativity and Madness Controversy, along with other books on the subject.
I have always wondered if I had not experienced these states, would I have created what I created?
I sought diagnosis after a bad bout of hypomania that involved massive spending and racking up of debts, as well as self-medicating that only made it far worse. The self-portrait aspect of this piece is a photo I took of myself after cutting my bangs in a mania at four in the morning one night.
I would often use medical texts and also used one from Jean Paul Sartre’s pulp, Intimacy pictured in this post. I do not recall creating poems or art while medicated, but instead I recall creating during times of hypomania and times of depression.

My future posts will be more steeped in scholarship and “proof” to these deductions made in this very personal first post.
For instance, a man just sitting on the El becomes someone I can “read,” or at least feel I can read, feeling I know what he is feeling and hoping and dreaming as I sit near him.
I came upon this book by chance when I was shelving books in the Flaxman Library at The School of the Art Institute of Chicago, finding it staring up at me from the black book truck, cluing me in to the knowledge that someone else in the library was interested in learning more about depression, possibly for themselves. In this state I am able to write a poem or create a photomontage that tells a story that is happening inside of me that no daily sentence could ever truly contain. This is a book that is easily approachable and informative and should be considered as a definite read for sufferers, as well as their friends and families. Jamison writes, “A possible link between madness and genius is one of the oldest and most persistent of cultural notions; it is also one of the most controversial” (50). My hope is that these books open a door for others as well, that oft tightly shut door of mental illness that I hope will remain open in order to inform and remove so many stigmas that follow us like shadows.
She has also won first place in the drawing category in an Art Renewal Center Salon competition and Best of Show in the Inspiring Figures exhibition at the Butler Institute of American Art in Youngstown, OH.
A creative block curtailed her efforts for a while, but she taught art to children for a few years until she met and began taking workshops from artist Jove Wang in 2013.
My paternal family avoided talk of illness even though the family is plagued with Depression and Bipolar illness, as if ignoring it would make it all go away.
Is it necessary to experience these destructive states in order to produce work that makes me not only proud, but almost more manic in my accomplishments? It was teased out to complete madness while I was emerged in a difficult relationship that came on the heels of my ending a sever-year relationship.
I will confess that I have stopped taking medication for the last six months and have had instances of my illness but very little creativity. And as American poet and Bipolar sufferer Robert Lowell attested, “I feel the jagged gash with which my contemporaries died” (Crawford 193), I will end this first of many posts about mental illness and the artist.
In this piece, I will talk a bit about each of these books in the hope that they may help readers here to find such comfort. Being a library at an art school, one must deduce that someone creative was seeking the comfort that I was seeking.
When and if I do divulge my innermost depressive feelings to another person, the answer is often one resembling, “But you have so much going for you. Kristeva does this in Black Sun with a creative intellect giving this indescribable illness a footing, giving its readers a comfort that is truly priceless and unforgettable. This breaks down into further categories of illness and even substance abuse among the creative set, according to Ludwig.
In about one-half of these persons, their first bout of mental illness happened at least one year after their initial professional success, and in about one-fourth, it happened and was resolved at least one year before” (160). Much of her work focuses on this correlation between “that fine madness” as she calls it, and creativity. For me, the things of life that are the most controversial are usually the very things that possess some truth and this is no exception.
Wang inspired her to merge her love of impressionistic and abstract styles, which can be seen today in her oil works of landscapes, figures, and still lifes.
The hypomania itself is like a drug and the depressive state that invariably follows the hypomania (maybe even as late as months later) is like a tragedy, even a death. While I was in this difficult relationship, I began this obsessive habit of writing a poem about my extreme emotions at least every night (sometimes it manifested to several a day).
The only good news has been not having the terrible side effects my psychotropic drugs have on me including dizziness, nausea, migraines, and short-term memory loss. I will end in the hopes we may all deal with our “jagged gash” in our own unique ways toward a health and and its resulting beauty.
There is a great comfort in answers, in a book like Kristeva’s, where you no longer feel alone, but you also read it and think, “Yes! You should be so happy!” I realize this response is in part misunderstanding because of a lack of experience with mental illness or just an uncomfortable need to end such a dark-cornered conversation. She continues, “There are several ways to examine the relationship between mood disorders, or effective illness, and artistic creativity” (56). My aunt, a talented and untrained painter herself, was plagued with an illness that seems to plague many artists — Bipolar and Depression.
I suddenly realized I had to free myself from the dysfunctional relationship, as well as from my destructive self. Now I am in the process of seeking psychotherapy again and possibly trying new medications that will not result in side effects that keep me from functioning well in my daily life, let alone in my creative one. I am aware, however, that things like an ended relationship or some professional failure may not seem like something that should send me into considering suicide, but these daily griefs do send me and other sufferers into precisely this place.
Musical composers, artists, and nonfiction writers suffer mostly from alcoholism and depression … Poets show a high prevalence of both mania and psychoses. This contention is laid out, like Ludwig, via the scientific method through charts and research.
In one humorous painting a mouse balances precariously on a string stretched above a curious or hungry feline.
RIGI and LAST STAGE were accepted into the American Impressionist Society juried shows in 2013 and 2015. The pages were strewn with words and emotions, often not leaving a single part of the page blank because I wanted the only order to this project to be two pages for each day. Even though Bipolar is as much a part of me as relationships of the past and present, it could no longer be permitted to wholly engulf me. I will keep this issue wide open for discussion and will also update my case with this issue as I am able after taking medication again for at least a month.
Poets, actors, fiction writers, and musical entertainers are more likely to attempt suicide” (5). So if I wrote three poems in one day, I would have to fit them onto the two pages I allotted myself.

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