How would you describe depression? It often feels like it is impossible to describe the presence and magnitude of such an illness into words or feelings.
However, is it possible to encapsulate the depth of pain through art?
One artist who hopes to do just this is Jennifer Mazur who I have the honour of featuring on my blog this week.
In this interview, Jennifer explores the face of depression through her breathtaking paintings that aim to paint a window into the soul of those living with mental illnesses.
Raised under the Florida sun and living in tune with Swedish nature, Jennifer comes from a long line of artists. Today, her art is fuelled by her need to address mental wellness and she uses her art as a medium to raise her voice and smash the mental health stigma.
I too deeply believe that erasing the stigma of mental health in our culture begins with sharing our stories and realising that many of us are suffering. And so, I’m so incredibly grateful for Jennifer for sharing her story with us all.
Most importantly, I also hope this interview and Jennifer’s art serves as a reminder that you are never ever alone as dark and lonely as it sometimes seems.
Hi Jennifer! Firstly, can you please tell my readers all about your beautiful art and how it came to be?
Absolutely. I have been creating art forever, but this year, during the Covid pandemic, I lost my mom. Then I lost my job as a result of wanting to be by my mom’s side.
Because of mom, I found myself naturally moving away from just aesthetically pleasing art to art that evoked emotion and found that it talked to a specific audience about something that pissed me off- The stigma of mental health.
Plus, without a job I’ve had a whole lot of time.
You describe yourself as a ‘Emotive, figurative, mixed media artist’ and on a mission to remove the stigma of mental health. Can you please tell my readers more about this? And how you approach this in your beautiful artwork?
I have spent a huge part of my life “depressed” and with “ADD”. I have found it has been so difficult to get help. Even with friends- when I opened up and was honest, most people seemed to shy away from the topic, with a generic reply like, “Well, it will get better. Go for a walk.” And when I turned to social media I noticed that everything was just…. bullshit. No one was being authentic. No one feels amazing and awesome 100% of the time.
My work features women, “my girls”, who struggle with something they feel ashamed of, because they have been conditioned to think these things are shameful — Depression, ADHD, Bipolar, Eating Disorders, Anxiety, Autism, or just plain ol’ loneliness. The list goes on and on. Because of the fear of being judged, they don’t show up completely.
It’s as if using an Instagram filter. They show up all sparkly and perfect. However, that isn’t how they want to live. So they are breaking outside of the implied moulds that Society and Social Media expect. In a moment of strength, they decide to share their souls with anyone they trust. So my girls have a single eye that is more realistic, large, and wide open. Inviting people to look deep inside and connect on an authentic level.
Daring to break the stigma that mental health still carries in 2021!
You live in Sweden (one of my favourite countries!) but you’re originally from Florida in the USA. How have both locations inspired your artwork? And you as a person?
OMG yes. I grew up on the beaches of Florida and since being in Sweden I find my solitude in the woods. Plus in Stockholm, I am surrounded by water, which I love. Because of this, my palette tends to gravitate towards blues and greens.
In the States my life was always so rushed — gogogo! — and here in Sweden it’s a matter of slowing down. At first it drove me crazy, but I have learned to appreciate it. Taking in the moments and enjoying them. And I no longer feed the perfectionist inside of me. Rather, I take things as they come naturally. Both in myself and in my art.
Can you remember your earlier creative memories?
I grew up in a family of artists. So I think my creative side was nurtured from a very early age. One of my first memories was wanting to make a book. So mom took a box, cut it up, made a book cover and tied pages inside with a red ribbon. She then wrote the words I shared and I illustrated them in crayon, paint and pen. Already mixed media!
Can you please talk us through some of your favourite materials for your artwork?
So many! Everything goes. For example, when working on a canvas (not in my latest collection) I start every canvas by writing my wishes for the eventual owner in graphite. A small blessing of sorts. Then I cover it with gesso, acrylics, alcohol inks, markers, graphite, charcoal, watercolours, pens, moulding pastes, papers, literally anything goes.
Even with my current collection I use both watercolor and pen. And occasionally inks.
I love them all!
What is on your mood board, or in your mind, as you create?
Sometimes a specific song. It can be something I hear on the news. Or something a friend is struggling with. Often it’s just a matter of working from intuition. Just getting it down onto the canvas. Inspiration comes from everywhere. From living.
Where do you create your artwork? And how do you work? For example, do you enjoy listening to anything as you work, or enjoy watching something?
I have a studio at home where I create and have several playlists that I rotate. Often when outdoors, near water or in the woods, I bring a small sketchbook, paints and pens and just create small pieces for myself. Outdoors is the only place I don’t have music playing while creating.
How do you want people to feel when they look at your art?
I want them to feel seen and understood. To know that whatever it is that they are not wanting to share due to the fear of being judged is common and not something to be ashamed of.
I’d like to give them a small boost of bravery to help them share their authentic selves.
And for others, who don’t see themselves, I want them to have an Aha! moment. To recognize the fact that mental health is something we need to talk about. To not make shameful. And to realize the magnitude of what judgement does to others.
If you could have a piece of your artwork anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Oh goodness! I hadn’t thought of this before. I just want it to be visible to those who need it. Wherever that is.
Routines and rituals for the soul: can you tell us about the others little or big things that keep you feeling enchanted, joyful, connected and inspired?
I meditate a lot. I look at other artists’ work. I walk in nature. I light candles and take bubble baths. I follow a ton of Instagram accounts who are uplifting. I try to live a life of gratitude and look for it even in the most difficult moments. I read statistics on mental health (this keeps me connected, no joy here).
Georgie xoxo is all about seeking whimsy, enchantment and wonder? How do these things show up for you?
They show up in nature with the peace of the snow falling, the perfection of flowers and leaves and the sound of the waves rolling in. By appreciating a lot of mermaid, faery and fantasy art. And crystals with the colors, texture and the way they feel in my hands.
Describe the your art or ethos in 3 words:
Uplifting, whimsical and thoughtful
Where can we see more of your artwork? (social media, website etc)
Finally Jennifer, what is your one wish for the world?
To treat each other with compassion and understanding — without judgement.
A huge thank you to Jennifer for opening up about parts of her journey living with mental illness and sharing such love and light through her methods of healing through art.
The healing power of creating art has long been recognised by artists for centuries from around the world, as evident in the work of Vincent Van Gogh to Edward Munch to Georgia O’Keeffe.
Living with a mental health illness is a long road, and one with many variables and actionable steps. Today, we can start by talking and Jennifer’s work so gently eases us into these conversations.
I’d love to know how Jennifer’s artwork makes you feel? Are there aspects of Jennifer’s story that resonates with you? What do you see when you gaze into her portrait’s eyes?
It’s always such an honour to hold space for you all here. Until then, like every single one of the faces that Jennifer paints, please always remember how special you are, how unique you are, and how much this world needs you just as you are right now.
For my Swedish readers, Jennifer is holding an exhibition of her work in January 2021. To find all the details head here.