|Anxiety by Lindsay Joy ACAD||| Print ||
Lindsay Joy, Self-Sabotage. appliqué and embroidered cotton on linen. 2010. 26cm x 34cm.
Anxiety has been a big part of my life for as long as I can remember. I was always “shy”, and no matter how hard I pushed myself, the terrifying feelings would always come back. Sometimes I couldn’t go to the bank or ask for help in class. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t quite normal until last year when it became very severe, and I began to seek help.
Dread. appliqué and embroidered cotton and wool on linen. 2010. 38cm x 36cm.
Photo by melinda topilko
In my research, I came across the idea of contemplative art. People often use these practices for anxiety, but contemplative art unfortunately tends to be connected to the wishy-washy new-age movement, of which I have always been a skeptic. Often this consists of kitschy activities such as flower arrangement, abstract calligraphy(is that even a thing?) and artful furniture-moving. The core of the idea of contemplative art is to achieve a focus on a repetitive process instead of the racing mind. For my contemplative practice, I chose a process that would improve my skill and honour tradition while making my work more deeply personal. I use small scraps of linen and stitch with whatever I can get my hands on - wool, cotton, silk, and sometimes appliqué printed fabrics onto the backing. The tactile process of hand stitching is relaxing, but also renders the work almost masochistically time-consuming, allowing for many tiny decisions along the way. Embroidered objects are vaguely familiar to most people, and that feeling accompanies my work and makes it more approachable. I am incapable of being “serious”, so with this series I am interested in making the serious topic of anxiety easier to digest by incorporating deceptively friendly colours, imagery and text. I would much rather have the work be accessible rather than some morbid expression of angst, which wouldn’t get me anywhere.
Maybe Attending. embroidered an appliquéd cotton on linen. 2011. Photo by Marc Legare.
At the worst, I felt like I needed to tell someone, but my excruciating “confessions” fell on deaf or confused ears. In my work, I describe things I have been afraid of for years but have been too ashamed to admit, but make fun of myself in the process. I usually know how ridiculous my feelings are, but still can’t seem to shake them. That intermediate process makes it easier to get the words out there and eases the anxiety over the confession. I hang the small pieces of linen from delicate needles, rendering them a vulnerable substitution for myself. People sometimes still don’t believe me, after all, I am (usually) not holed up in my apartment, and I seem to function most of the time. Viewers who don’t know me seem to think the work is humorous, while those who I have known for years often become inordinately concerned about my well-being, telling me that I shouldn’t feel this way, as if it is some new development. They all have advice, too, but it is mostly of the “snap out of it” type. Advice from “experts” isn’t much better, and usually has to do with buying more books. I have more recently begun to add small snippets from ridiculous self-help advice from books and that vast treasure trove of bad advice, the internet, and in the future plan to make pieces from the point of view of the advice-giver. People who take the time to explore my work often share how they have experienced similar feelings, and that understanding is a key part to feeling better.
Aloof. embroidered silk on linen. 26 cm x 21cm. 2011.Photo by Marc Legare
Nervous. embroidered mohair and cotton on linen. 2010. 27cm x 32cm. Photo by Marc Legare.
Sometimes people have asked me about my work as if the mere act of making it has banished all my anxiety forever. This is obviously not the case, and I can only try to take it one step at a time. Sometimes I bite off more than I can chew and feel like I’ve failed, and it takes a lot of work to get back to “normal”. Now that I am out of the safety net of school, the familiar swell of anxiety is back, as if it had never left. Lying in job interviews about how I love people wears me out very quickly. I hope that work like mine can show that there are more types of people out there than people-people, and it could make it easier for us, eventually.
Just Answer It, Already. embroidered cotton, polyester and wool on linen.
2011. 26cm x 35cm. Photo by Marc Legare.
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