When I started The Anxiety Project almost five years ago, it was never my intention to exhibit the drawings in any other way than as part of a performance. In my mind, I wasn’t so much making art, as using drawing to try and express what I seemed to fail to express to others with words alone. (I know that sounds a lot like making art… But for reasons those living with anxiety and depression will understand, the idea of making art is too intimidating to have as an intent). I was coming to grips with the fact that I’ve lived with anxiety and depression most of my life and have, more often than not, let them take the lead in how I moved through the world. Anxiety and depression were essentially in the driver’s seat and I was just along for the ride. The drawings help. Drawing every day helps. Drawing as a regular part of my meditation practice helps. I even integrated drawing into my therapy, often sharing them with my therapist and discovering how much meaning they contained for me.
As I started to develop performances and presentations around the drawings, they became integral parts of my story and I loved projecting them as big as possible, depending on the venue. They were/are my scenery, sometimes even my props. So when people talked about the drawings and how the drawings affected them, or how they wanted more time with them than the performance allowed, I was always a little surprised. I didn’t have much confidence in them as stand-alone drawings, or as drawings one might go to experience in an exhibition.
But here we are. Two exhibitions of work from my Anxiety Project happening in 2021. Both exhibitions include drawings from the project’s performances, as well as pages from the most recent part of the project, a visual narrative, Inside Anxiety and Depression – very much a work in progress. The HUB Gallery exhibition will also include our short animated film, Inhale, Exhale, Draw.
The work in the project is very personal. But it also seeks to make meaning out of the fact that anxiety and depression are pervasive in the archives of human experience. And it seems this is true for biochemical and social reasons. I’m eager to experience the drawings in this context, despite how risky it feels to have them stand on their own outside performance. I hope others will discover something in them that speaks to them and helps shed some light on their own experience or that of someone they love. (The first and third photos below from the HUB Robeson exhibition are by Ashleigh Longtine).