I don’t consider myself a visual artist in the traditional sense. I do draw, and I make performances to go with my drawings, but I’m not a trained studio artist who makes and exhibits work as my chosen profession. I flirted with that world some thirty years ago, exhibiting for several years at galleries in Erie, Pa., and in annual festivals. But theatre and performance were really my trade. Then I went on to earn a Ph.D. and felt compelled to do the kind of scholarship expected of an academic. Which I did, co-authoring three books, publishing a number of articles, and delivering the requisite conference paper once or twice a year. All the while I continued to draw, rarely sharing the work with anyone. I would make it, look at it for bit, then stack it up with other drawings and tuck them away. Or I would doodle and sketch when I was supposed to be writing.
Drawing, mark making, is my true passion. So when I started making drawings about living with anxiety and depression over four years ago, I had no real plan for them. They were therapeutic at a time I really needed the distraction, along with actual therapy and some difficult personal work. That work led me to making performances with my anxiety drawings and wading into the graphic medicine world with visual narratives that were also part of the performances. Most of the drawings are pretty small, 9″x12″, with a handful at 12″x14″. For me, they were images I could scan and then project in performance, projecting them as big as possible, depending on the venue. My favorite performance space for these drawings is Dixon Place Theatre in New York, where they were about ten feet high! That’s how I wanted to see them. So it never occurred to me to seek out gallery exhibition opportunities. Oddly, I’m an artist who was making work I didn’t think of as art outside the context of the performance. Even though people kept telling me the drawings were powerful in and of themselves, I either didn’t hear it, or more likely, didn’t want to battle additional insecurities about whether or not they were “good art.” They worked as a story-telling aid, and that was what I needed.
When Lindsey Landfried, curator of Penn State’s HUB Galleries, approached me about doing and exhibition of the Anxiety Project drawings and related work I was surprised, more than a little scared, but also grateful. I’d been working on gratitude as an antidote to the feelings of disconnection and isolation that usually accompany regular bouts with anxiety and depression. And I have much to be grateful for. So why not be grateful for the opportunity to share this work in a new way and to allow the drawings to speak for themselves for a change? My performance collaborator and side-kick, Dr. Tyler Sperrazza, offered enthusiastic encouragement to take the opportunity. Hopefully we’ll be doing a livestream of a performance as well.
I’m incredibly grateful for the HUB Galleries staff, who have made this process as stress-free as possible.