My name is Claire Frederick. I’m an incoming senior in Painting at Maine College of Art (MECA) in Portland, ME. I live in the city with my cat, Glitter, who is my therapy kitty. I have clinical and seasonal depression, an anxiety disorder, sleep issues, and am a recovered self harmer and anorexic.
I have always been someone that tries to handle my mental health on my own; even at my lowest lows I have refused outside help. It wasn’t until I was outside the United States (Italy and Greece) in my worst manic depressive and anxious episode that I realized I needed support from professionals and medication. It was more than situational; it was chemical. It took multiple tries to find the pills that worked for me, but I found them.
Presently, I still have my days, but I am the strongest and happiest I have ever been. As an artist with mental illness and queer identity, it is my mission to spread awareness through visual art by both personal and relatable imagery. To me, it is important for people to understand the vast diversity that mental illness takes form, and that most times it’s not “standard.” Even with all of its idiosyncratic identities, there are others out there that feel like you.
Talking to friends, family, strangers, and or professionals can be so beneficial to find peace of mind. Literally. There are people that want to help and support you, as well as, well as ways to find personal positivity and release the negative. For me, finding an outlet and profession in visual art has saved my life. I am also forever grateful for my support system: my family, girlfriend, friends, and professionals. We all have a reason to believe, to keep moving forward; it’s always out there.
“Disphoria” Artist Statement: The use of line in the exploration of the female figure formally investigates the structure and planar shifts of the body. These lines are formulated in an almost topographical way, and are treated with translucent waves of desaturated color. The earthy, yet bruise-like palette alludes to nature in the same way the body becomes geography. By using wet-on-wet techniques, the paint creates its own forms; the pen is then used to take back control, separating the values and hues. Steering away from the composure of traditional portraiture, I repeat, deconstruct, and reinvent the female figure to achieve an emotional and psychological experience, mimicking feelings of dysphoria associated with my mental illness.
“Self Image” Artist Statement: I struggled with anorexia for 6 years. At my lowest, I was 89lbs and still wanting to be thinner. By college, I was 100-105lb: The very low end of an average weight for my height (5’3”) and still recovering. At the time, I was still working towards a healthy weight.
This piece is articulated from a disruption of self image that was caused by a lack of physical attraction from someone I loved because I had gained weight. They didn’t love me for me. When we started dating, I was still underweight; then, I wasn’t “skinny” anymore. This was a major factor in our separation.
This is my way of showing the raw nakedness of my self portrait diverged in vulnerability (lavender) and assertiveness (red). By hanging myself on the wall, I become a contrasting figure to the classical imagery of the ideal. Being slightly off the ground puts me at eye level with the audience, but still separates me from them, feeling different, but also still being viewed as art. My painted body doesn’t change unless I decide to add or subtract from it–not allowing it to show how I once looked or will look one day, only as is.
For me, the process of painting it was important. As someone who has body image issues, it made me see myself for who I really am, accept it, and even see the beauty in my body. The life-size plane made the process very physical and timely. The felt becomes a bathroom mat. The scale, broken and altered, becomes a self portrait as well, covered in the skin colors and tattoos seen in the paintings. This installation shows how my weight has greatly affected my life. My presence is physical and weighted.
I have to say as the artist: Yes, this did start as what one could say is “revenge art.” I felt destroyed by that conversation with that person because I loved them so much. I constantly thought about the conversation that sparked this. I felt that this was the way for me to show my true feelings about it and have a stab back at them; however, in the process of making this piece, I have come to terms with myself and my thoughts about this person. I am no longer constantly thinking about them, this situation, the anger, and depression that came with it. If that person sees this piece, my intention is for my coping, not to point the finger at them in hatred. I have no intention, or want, to hurt them.
Prompt: The initiative of this project was use the human form to discuss the impression or reality of beauty. This was to be expressed with two planes and an object to form an installation.
Start: I had the idea for this project when I was trying to sleep off an anxiety attack one night, before the assignment was even given to my class. I figured this was a good opportunity to start it. I wanted to display my body to the audience in full actuality of my body–front and back as if I was standing with them. I didn’t quite yet know how to incorporate an object, but I knew I wanted to depict an aspect of who I was/ am, something personal to my physical body.
Process/ Progress: I hand built the panels from 4’x6’ and 6’x3”x1” birch wood using a hand saw, saw, brad gun, glue, and clamps. The size of the panels is equivalent to my height. Each panel was then primed with gesso, then paint shielded, and–once dry– sanded, a process cycled at least 15 times so that the layers are smooth and even. Finally, the surface is buffed and is now ready to be painted on.
I used a limited palette of Blush, Titanium Buff, Paynes Grey, and Titanium White (used only for highlighting). This palette is a favorite of mine due to the lifelike skin tones it creates, with a slight sickly nature. The starting layers are mixed with gamsol (a paint thinner). Then, the next layers are mixed with a medium of gamsol, galkyd, and linseed oil that creates a semi/transparent glaze. Some of my final layers are with straight paint to add opacity. The process is done this way because the gesso prevents the oils from eating the wood, and the mediums are added the way they are so that the paint doesn’t chip off.
The figure was sketched on paper and then transferred onto the panel via charcoal. I painted the figure from photo references taken by myself. The backgrounds were added after using Quinacridone Red, Buff Titanium, Dioxazine Purple, Buff Titanium, and Titanium White. Then, using the galkyd medium mixture with Buff Titanium and Titanium white, I dripped the colors over the background to dilute the colors.
Object: I decided to use a ready made object as the basis of the object and then modify it to match my vision. I used a bathroom weight scale, which is self-explanatory. A friend of mine and I went outside the school with hammers and smashed it until it was no longer usable (scaring some people in the process). Then, I glued it back together so that it still resembled a scale. I then took crayons matching my color palette and melted them over the surface of the scale using a hair dryer and a microwave to heat the wax. I also used latex and glue, and used a glaze of skin color palettes over the top so that the color would show through from underneath.
End: The final installation was laid out. The panels were hung close to the floor to be at normal height with the viewer, but still off the ground to resemble art. They were a couple of feet apart. I bought Navy felt and cut it the length of how the panels were hung, laying it on the floor like a bathroom mat (it also covered the dirty, paint covered floor). The scale was placed in the center between the paintings.
We are thrilled to feature Claire’s beautiful, thoughtful, and emotional pieces of art on our site. You can find Claire at her website (which is currently under construction) as well as her personal Instagram and her artists’s Instagram. Be sure to give lots of love to Claire in the comments!
Always remember you are not alone.
You are loved.
Want to submit to this site and share your story, art, or article related to mental health? Email firstname.lastname@example.org