On Thursday 28 March, Julia Young, Curator at The Dax Centre, sat down with four artists from their current exhibition—STIGMA: dismantled, revealed to talk about their experience of stigma, self expression and art making.
Once the audience had indulged in cheese platters and drinks, they gathered around Cornelia Selover’s oil on board artwork, The complex heaven of a broken mind, to hear Simon Crosbie, Lucy Hotchin, Kylie Steinhardt and artist in residence Jessie Brooks-Dowsett participate in a Q&A style panel conversation.
“What are your experiences of stigma, and how do you feel we can dismantle and reveal it?,” Julia asked the artists.
“I think my own self stigma was my biggest obstacle,” Kylie said.
“Emergency room stigma from doctors, nurses and the medical system is the worst. That’s the part of the stigma that gets in your soul,” Lucy added. “The whole idea of doing well whilst experiencing mental illness—you can actually be in a state of flux and still be doing well in life.”
“To reduce stigma,” Jessie replied, “there needs to be more conversation about mental health. It [mental health] isn’t a binary where you’re healthy on one side and sick on the other. There is a continuum.”
When asked about their art practices, it was clear that our artists’ processes were all very different. Lucy, who has a collection of embroidery hoops in STIGMA: dismantled, revealed, said that her hoops that have words feel really bold. “Stitching words has become a really powerful tool of recognition within myself. It’s always about the process.”
Kylie, whose series of cartoons are featured in our exhibition, said that she really enjoys it [her artistic process] and that she finds it [art making] very calming.
“I like incorporating words and I like it to be easy to understand. I always start with the eyes”.
For Simon, who has a series of watercolour works in STIGMA: dismantled, revealed, iteration is a big thing. “Everything is always half way through. It’s never complete. It never stops. It just keeps on going. I like doing it in books.”
Julia then asked, “How did you find your voice through art? Was art something you have always used to express yourself?”
“It’s very new to me,” Kylie said. “I’m expressing myself more and more through my drawing. It’s getting easier to talk about mental health and my symptoms, and explaining them in a way that people can understand and relate.”
Jessie, on the other hand, said that art galleries have always felt like home. “I get frustrated with language because I feel like I need to reduce what I’m trying to say.
You have much more scope [with art] in terms of what you can express. It feels like a much truer way of me communicating.”
Simon emphasised the importance of trauma in his work. “My drive is to represent trauma. Trauma is about little bits and fragments. That’s why iteration is part of the deal.”
After a series of questions from the audience, guests were left to peruse the gallery at their leisure and engage in further conversation with Simon, Lucy, Kylie and Jessie.
If you missed out on The Dax Centre's Artist In Conversation event, there are two more Community Sunday events coming up as part of the STIGMA: dismantled, revealed exhibition. On March 17 & 24, from 11-4pm, come and meet the artists, participate in an art making experience, enjoy live music and free afternoon tea at The Dax Centre. All ages welcome.
STIGMA: dismantled, revealed is now showing at The Dax Centre until June 7. Through the creative practices of seven contemporary artists including an artist in residence, the exhibition explores the pervasiveness of stigma and self-stigma that persists around mental health issues today.
For more information about the exhibition, visit daxcentre.org. To stay up to date with our events, follow The Dax Centre on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.The Dax Centre is part of the SANE Australia group.