A senior’s Art History Thesis Project
As Gallery 788 began to fill up, the pain and suffering depicted within the artists’ paintings, sculptures and photographs came to life.
Carlyn Thomas, a senior art history major, decided to curate an art exhibition, Out of Mind, as part of her thesis project. The exhibition is compiled of artwork by eight artists, Corinne May Botz, Lauren Castellana, Ellie Dent, Chelsea Harman, Megan Lloyd, Michelle Pugliese, J. Marshall Smith and Audrey Van De Castle. These artists explore “various states of mental distress by representing associated neurotic reactions and behaviors.”
Thursday evening was the opening of Thomas’ art exhibit where she presented her research and thesis project and shared the insights of each of the artists. According to Thomas, each artist establishes “visual vocabulary that is essential to assimilating neuroses as everyday realities.” This allows the viewers to relate where they “also feel instabilities and vulnerabilities within themselves.”
Thomas spoke of past eras, such as the Enlightenment and the Asylum Movement, when mental illness was looked down upon in society. Those who suffered from mental distress and disorders were seen as “subhuman and beastly” and were eventually forced to “repress and control [their] ways of thinking.”
With the switch from asylums to psychiatric medications in the 21st century, artist Ellie Dent questions whether it brings a plausible solution or if it brings “a new bag of problems.”
Modern day society has not learned from the past because, according to Sigmund Freud, the human mind is always “correcting what is acceptable to society.” Many people prefer not to expose their inner flaws and emotions, in fear of not living up to societal norms.
From feelings of depression, anxiety and masochism to how science interprets internal behaviors, these artists are able to uncover what is restrained within every one of us. The message brought out by these artists can be summarized by the words of French philosopher Michel Foucault in that “madness encompasses all humanity,” whether society chooses to accept that fact or not.
The artists are able to “create a world with tolerance and understanding,” despite their neuroses. Thomas concluded by assuring her audience that everyone should embrace their individual benefits and “it is okay to be crazy.”
Carlyn Thomas’ art exhibition, Out of Mind will be on display from May 2 – 11 at Gallery 788, 218 West Saratoga St. Baltimore, MD 21201.