Tonight’s gathering was one of those events where you leave invigorated with the buzz of neurons firing off ideas. Each performance was captivating: the actor in her own biographical one woman show, the 3 poets, a sneak peak into projects by people, like the filmmaker who shared his most recent project filming with no crew and the group of high school girl game designers. The positive attitude of everyone was absolutely inspiring and I can’t wait for next month!
Here’s the talk I gave about my art, depression, and overcoming it by becoming mos.
My name is mos, which stands for monkey on strike. I paint landscapes, figures, and abstract subject matter in oils, acrylics, and digital media. My given human label is ***, and I graduated in 2008 from UC Davis with a degree in studio Art. For my post baccalaureate studies I traveled abroad in France in 2009, but a fog of depression began to impede on my ability to do anything, let alone create art.
I struggle with depression and anxiety and I have had many days lost under the fog. Art can be a way for me to escape, but depression will stop me from finishing a project or sharing it with others.
Depression is a strange affliction. People may use the word interchangeably with sadness but depression can surface in many different forms that affect each person in a unique way. Often the psychosis is so pervasive that the person suffering has no awareness, let alone control, of their thoughts, mood, and actions. It is also one of the hardest diseases to start a conversation about, especially if you are suffering. I found myself stuck in behaviors and thoughts that anchored me alone underneath a fog of anxiety.
I endured standard pharmaceuticals and therapy, only coming out with side effects and labels for my problems. Having tried normal treatments, I began resorting to alternative methods. In a group therapy painting session, I began to approach my depression in a different manner. My depression was no longer my weakness, but a villain to make me stronger. I created an ideal character to fight my nemesis; my superhero was a confident artist who used his imagination to express ideas and to share them with the world.
You don’t need a radioactive spider, you can have super powers to fight your battle; you just have to imagine. I want everyone to grab their labels, time for everyone create your own mos. You are going to come up with an artist name for yourself. The parameters of this project are: the pseudonym is one word, should be as few syllables as possible, and it should represent an ideal you strive for. This is a place for you to create an ideal to make you better; No negative thinking allowed. GO!
In the group therapy session I painted an abstract landscape that had been in unfinished sketches and paintings of mine for the 4 years I was stuck in my fog: a figure steers a boat retreating with his family from the oncoming twilight. The sun setting behind the mountains meant the end will come and you can’t outrun it, enjoy the beauty in the world around you with others while you have a chance. I didn’t realize it when I started, but I finished a painting I had been stuck working on for years. I signed my painting mos for the first time.
Having this ideal character to strive towards, I slowly began to build confidence with each step. Each of the small victories brought me closer to a “mos state”, where I was creating for a living. Creating a website for my alter ego “monkeyonstrike.com” was one of the first steps, eventually leading to closing a small business I started after college which was taking time away from creating.
Momentum began to build and pull me out of my artistic slump. I began to finish commissions, finish projects I had started in college, and I found a job where I get to be Bob Ross at a bar. All of these little victories build upon a foundation where I can be free from anxious thoughts. With this confidence, I started planning projects that push my boundaries.
I kept going back to this article in the Wall Street Journal that said that a visitor to a gallery spends less than 3 minutes in a gallery. I wanted to challenge this, and really engage the viewers. Sharing the video along with the finished piece gives the viewer so much more to build from; they have a chance to put themselves in the artists shoes as the first few strokes are made down to the last few drops of paint. I wanted to set up a wall of blank canvas to be painted on by the guests with spray paint, sponges, brushes, palette knives or fingers. Along with the videos to bring people in to the painting after its done, the most exciting moments happen while collaborating on the same project.
I launched Project Interval, a series of landscape paintings all recorded in time-lapse, and it received full funding on kickstarter in November, with funds going towards painting supplies, filming equipment, and an art party. The private party in February had 15 paintings from my landscape series on display with their videos, along with live music, free drinks, and painting supplies donated for the massive painting that the guests were invited to collaborate and create.
Now that everyone has their alter ego, we are going to collaborate on a project. Our project statement for Exquisite Corpse is this: everyone draws a segment of a body 4 times on 4 separate pieces of paper. Each time you draw, leave a hint (a line or shape that goes over the edge) and then fold over your drawing and pass it on. You can give them a hint on the paper, tell them what to draw or choose to say nothing. You have 1 minute for each section; GO!
The project gained momentum to a group show at The Shop for First Friday in March where I heard about Creative Crew. Preparing my works in gallery spaces, working on a major project with other artists, and working on the events have really helped me grow as an artist and reinvigorate my love of sharing art with others.
As you look into the face of others, you are seeing a mirror image of yourself. We are all sentient meat bags made of mostly water with a finite lifespan and right now we have the opportunity to share our time and activate some neurons together. Which comes to my call to action: I want to show that everyone is an artist. Please shed any negative societal or personal constraints and create! You have the power to experiment and create and do so with others. As artists, we do not judge or criticize, especially towards ourselves, but strive to be better with each stroke. Thank you.