"To survive the world, one must survive oneself."
Those are the poignant words that begin the artist’s statement of University of the Ozarks senior Brittany Green as she described her life-long battle with mental illness and how art has helped her better understand and cope with her daily struggles.
Green, an art major from Malvern, Ark., who graduates on Dec. 18, will present her Senior Art Exhibit, Therapy, in the Stephens Gallery from Dec. 11-18. There will be a reception to meet the artist at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13, in the gallery,
Diagnosed with major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, Green has battled anxiety, hallucinations and self-harm ideations most of her life. Through her artwork, Green believes she has found a path towards healing.
"When the reality of one’s mind completely contradicts the physical reality, surviving can be one of the hardest things to do," Green said. "I, like many, have had to fight in a war between those different realms of reality and have had to adapt to the never ending merry-go-round that is mental illness. Through artistic acts of creation and destruction, I process the different levels of living with mental illness. While incorporating materials and artistic processes to convey different forms of coping mechanisms, I practice and present forms of therapy that have led me through a journey of survival and healing."
Though Green has struggled with mental illness for many years, the nadir came during the summer before her freshman year at Ozarks when her father passed away. Over the last four years, Green has seen her outlook as well as her artwork evolve.
"My artistic processes have been a very crucial element on my path towards healing," she said. "As I developed, my artwork developed alongside me. Exploring these themes through my artwork has allowed me to better understand my situation and situations like mine."
The Therapy exhibit includes multi-media sculptures "Breathe" and "Hallucinated Realities," which, according to Green, represent the "intrusion I felt on my mental and physical space." She wants the viewer to feel that same kind of intrusion.
Senior art major Brittany Green will present her exhibit, Therapy, in the Stephens Gallery from Dec. 11-18.
"Hallucinated Realities are large sculptures that represent the visual and auditory hallucinations I suffer from," Green said. "Their forms and sizes create an overpowering emotional response. Through their presence, I am able to express different levels of mental distress by using various construction, carving and painting techniques."
Green said her artwork often goes through a meticulous material manipulation that can go on for years.
"That stems from the time-consuming efforts of coping and the continual build up and break down of oneself in the process," she said. "I find that the message I want to convey changes based on my understandings and my struggles to be hopeful, so the artwork needs to change as well so that it can be as real as possible."
Led by her U of O art professors Tammy Harrington and Dawn Holder, Green said she has found a strong support system at Ozarks.
"I bottled a lot of things up my freshmen year, and Tammy was one of the first people I really opened up to," Green said. "Both Tammy and Dawn helped me learn to express myself in my art and they encouraged me to start putting a sense of hope into my works, which helped create more of a sense of hope in me. The people at Ozarks have been wonderful to me and I would not have been able to continue without that support system."
After graduating from Ozarks, Green plans to pursue a graduate degree in museum studies while still working on her art, which she hopes can raise awareness of mental illness and help others who are dealing with the affliction.
"With my work, I want to showcase my journey and share the hardships with the audience," Green said. "I control the surroundings through the jarring forms and figures through 2-D and 3-D compositions. With large scale and layering of information, the viewer is drawn in to look at the alarming aspects that are associated with mental illness. By bringing these moments into reality, I welcome the audience to share the journey through therapy, the healing attempts, and the fight for survival."