Artist: Emily Anne Barnett
Media: Lithographs/ Printmaking
Exhibition: Recent Works on Paper
Gallery: Dr. Maxine Merlino Gallery
Recent Works on Paper may not be Emily Barnett’s first show, but it is among the first of her many works in which she portrays her struggle with mental illness. Originally from Northern California, Emily has since come a long way from her undergrad days at Humboldt State University. These days, she enjoys being a part of Long Beach State’s printmaking program and working on her artwork, which she states take her anywhere from a couple days to as much as three weeks, such as the ones included in this week’s exhibition.
The exhibition was made up of several prints sustained by heavy frames, each individual piece varying in colors and materials. Most of the prints depict an innocent girl holding onto a stuffed bear, which Emily states is an image of herself as a child. Some of the pieces were colored in perfectly, such as the two images on the top row depicted above, while others had heavy, opaque paint such as gouache splattered onto them.
The splatters and scribbles that were overwritten on some of the images were, according to Emily, supposed to act as a visual representation of what one experiences when dealing with different mental illnesses. She also went on to say that the works were created based on her own personal experiences, with some of the vivid and substantial perceptions being derived from her childhood which is why she stylistically chose to keep her art innocent in a way by using an image of herself a child as her subject.
I thought Emily’s exhibition was fascinating; I have previously seen something similar to her work in the sense that an artist will purposely draw the same image several times, each time putting themselves under the influence of a different drug, and I think it is really brave to commit to your art like that. Not only was it really intriguing to see what a mental illness does to your brain but finding out that the vivid imagery being portrayed came straight from Emily’s own personal experiences was even more humbling. I think what struck me the most from her exhibition was her attitude towards her experiences; the fact that she was willing to share something so personal and be really open and vulnerable to a crowd full of unknown people was extremely brave. Lastly, I loved how Emily used her platform to not only spread awareness about these issues and to encourage others to seek help if they need it but also to send out a message that “everyone has the right to good mental health”.