A teen artist with experience of anxiety and depression has created a set of "hard to swallow pills" to raise awareness of the daily struggles of mental illness, and to let others know that help is out there.
17-year-old student Cara Smith’s ceramic pill bottles - each featuring statistics about mental health - are on display at Jersey Arts Centre’s Berni Gallery until 14 September as part of the 36th ‘Original Student Art Exhibition'.
Cara is one of six artists - Phoebe Orr, Joshua Twohig-Jones, Monica Carvalho, Matthew Bennetts and Olivia Kellett – to take part in the exhibition following a successful application process.
Monica – who is entering her third year of her extended Diploma Art and Design at Highlands College – is this year’s winner. Last year’s winner, Flo Crowcroft, described Monica’s work as one where "unique style and technique shines through.”
Cara entered two different pieces for the historic student art exhibition: her ceramic pill bottles and a digital illustration titled ‘Mother of Sin. “I didn’t think I would get in,” she says laughing.
Cara, who will embark on her second and final year of her Level 3 Art and Design course at Highlands College, created the bottles out of clay as part of her final project for college.
“I wanted to raise awareness of mental health and what it is like to for people living with an illness,” Cara explains. “A lot of people take pills every day, so I tried to get the message across of what having a mental illness is like. I added facts and statistics about mental and health to try and educate people.”
Pictured: Cara engraved facts and statistics about mental illnesses on the bottles.
“I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety when I was 15, I have been taking medication since then,” Cara continues. “The piece ties in with self-harm as well which is such a taboo. I wanted to let people know that they are not alone because it is such a lonely thing to go through. I wanted to let them know that help is out there.”
Cara’s positive message about mental health was also the running theme of a separate piece she presented earlier this year as part of her course’s end of year exhibition. Cara stitched and embroidered the large piece – 2m by 2m – to “reflect more of the reality of living with your illness, hearing the mean words go around in your brain and trying to not let it take control of your life.”
Pictured: Cara's tapestry is titled 'Side Effects.'
Along the “mean words” are real quotes from Cara’s friends as well as more positive phrases. “One of the quotes says ‘blob of nothingness.’ If someone has been through the same thing, they will know exactly what that means,” Cara says.
The multi-faceted artist explored a different theme with ‘Mother of Sin,’ which she admits has a lot more of dark humour. It shows a woman with a baby devil in her womb sitting at the bottom of a tree whose roots lead to even more devil babies. Above the woman there is an asteroid seemingly heading for earth and a plane carrying a banner announcing ‘The end is today.’ Below there are plastic bags, a coffin and a dinosaur’s skeleton. A sign points to Hell (Earth).
Pictured: Cara started working on 'Mother of sin' at the beginning of the year.
“It’s a lot to take in,” Cara admits. “I don’t know how I came up with that. The coffin underground is for hopes and dreams. A lot of people don’t achieve their dreams and I think you just have to laugh about things like that.”
“It’s quite apocalyptic,” Cara adds. “It’s quite impacted by religion, it’s about life and death in religion. My mum and step dad are religious but I’m not. I tried to be as tasteful as I could be.”
When asked what her next project will be Cara finds it hard to settle on one medium. “I am trying to carry on doing illustrations with my weird style. I absolutely loved digital art,” she says.
Pictured: Cara's diplay at the Arts Centre.
After a quick pause, she adds: “Working on my final project with ceramics, I just loved it, the feel of the clay and making something. It was very time-consuming but so rewarding. I also enjoyed the tapestry and loved the textiles!”
For now, Cara will simply carry on “doing art every day.” “It’s amazing to go to college and do something you like every day, I couldn’t imagine doing anything else. People tend to be so close-minded about art, they like what they like. To be surrounded by creative people making such wonderful and weird art is so good.”
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