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Wellborn uses artwork to illustrate struggles with ADHD

March 9, 2016
By cnp
Posted in Art

University of the Ozarks senior Matt Wellborn has struggled with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD) his entire life and he's using his artwork to help others better understand his daily endeavors with the condition.

Wellborn, an art major from Green Forest, Ark., recently returned from California where one of his paintings, "Assumption Vs. Reality," was chosen for an exhibit in the Las Laguna Gallery in Laguna Beach, Calif. The exhibit, "How I Identify --- Myself: Works Exploring Identity," will run through March 26 at the gallery.

Wellborn, who utilizes the services of the university’s Jones learning Center, said a stereotypical assumption about people with ADHD is that the individual has so much energy they cannot sit still. However, he added, this is not always the case. ADHD can affect the mind even more than the body.

"I sometimes have issues processing emotions, such as anxiety, depression, anger, and happiness," Wellborn said. "Sometimes it is difficult to handle all these thoughts at once, because it is challenging to focus on one thing at a time. For many, ADHD can be seen as both a gift and a curse.  It is a gift because it motivates me to hurdle over my mental barriers, but, on the other hand, it is tough to maintain focus on what I am trying to achieve. My art illustrates the many sides of having ADHD by depicting my experiences and various mental states."

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Senior art major Matt Wellborn had his artwork, "Assumption Vs. Reality," chosen for an exhibit at the Las Laguna Gallery in Laguna Beach, Calif.

He said his artwork received a lot of attention during the Las Laguna Gallery exhibit’s opening reception.

"My piece was one of the most talked about pieces in the gallery for its unique take on tackling the issue of stereotyping mental disabilities like ADHD and how it portrays this issue in a uniquely visual way."

A native of California, Wellborn moved away from The Golden State when he was still an infant. He still has family in the state and was able to see many of them during his visit back.

"After all these years of being in Arkansas, it was truly a blessing going back to California," he said. "The best part about the trip was not just getting my art recognized by the world, but also experiencing the love and support I got from my family. During my trip to Laguna Beach,  my grandmother, my two great aunts, my god father, and a distant relative who I met for the first time came by to see the art piece and were thrilled by how much I have accomplished over the past year."

Wellborn said his paintings are often comprised of realistic self-portraits combined with pattern, bright colors, and surprising imagery, such as reoccurring squirrels.

"The squirrel moves quickly, jumping from one thing to another, a metaphor for how my mind works," he said. "While looking at brain scans of people with ADHD, I noticed they consist of six colors: blue, orange, yellow, green, purple, and pink. These colors are not only vibrant, but are also distracting, because they grab my eyes’ attention and pull them into a tunnel vision. Many people with ADHD can relate to this idea of being easily distracted because they may also have a short attention span. In all of my works, I utilize mixed media such as digital drawing, acrylic paint, collaged paper, and charcoal to represent a fractured and distracted state of mind."

Wellborn said he draws inspiration from iconic artists such as Salvador Dali and Artemisia Gentileschi.

"My work grabs the viewer’s attention with its vibrant colors, the use of realism, and the combination of intriguing elements," he said. "Although my compositions are original, the figures within them are influenced by the works of Dali and Gentileschi.  Their influence inspired me to combine realist human figures and surreal imagery with abstract shapes and colors filling the negative space. I utilize this variety of elements to convey a visual depiction of struggling with a mental disability. The process of overcoming my mental disability has inspired my creative work and has helped me to share my experience of the world in visual form."

Wellborn also received good news while he was in California, learning that he had been accepted into the coaching administration graduate program at Angelo State University in Texas.

"I got the news that I got accepted into the graduate program on the same day my artwork was presented," he said. "I will be the first in my family to go to graduate school and it feels great knowing that I have accomplished so much this past year and that I am truly blessed to be a part of something bigger."

Wellborn said his professional goal is to become a high school coach after being inspired by his high school football and baseball coach, Tony Coffey, a 1992 alumnus of Ozarks.

"Coach Coffey was someone who inspired me and pushed me to do my best in everything I did," he said. "He was also the one who steered me toward Ozarks and I will be forever grateful for what he’s done for me. I want to be that same kind of positive influence and leader for kids and inspire them to do great things."

Wellborn said he has plenty of people to thank for his success.

"My art professors at Ozarks, Tammy Harrington and Dawn Holder, as well as the entire staff at the Jones Learning Center have helped me achieve so many goals that I didn’t think was possible," he said. "The support of my family and friends who believed in me like Corey, Lilly, Alex, Cameron, Martin, Anna, Destiny, and Houston mean the world to me."