Depicting Mental Illness in Art: the Work of Amelia Baron

“Obsession for Perfection”, “Under the Sheets” and “Suffocation”.  These are the titles of projects by Leeds Art University student Amelia Baron.  With an inspiring creative flair, she deals with the mental health issues that plague modern society – such as anxiety, depression and eating disorders.  Her artwork is thoughtful and hard-hitting, and rendered even more striking by the opportunities for audience participation.

Take suffocation, for example: “a performance in which the audience could participate by pouring a ready made mixture of chalk, talc and newspaper clippings over me, as I sat with a bag over my head inside the sculpture”.

This piece thus embodies the mental suffocation and isolation that anxiety and overthinking entail.

“Under the Sheets” similarly depicts the experience of loneliness and dark thoughts.  What is particularly clever here is Amelia’s decision to photograph her piece outside the realms of the art gallery in order to convey the inescapability of depression for its sufferers.

After exploring Amelia’s thought-provoking work, HerCampus sought out to ask her some questions related to her emotions and aspirations.

How does it feel when you’ve finished a piece?  Does it give you relief, satisfaction…?

“Am I allowed to swear? Good. Because it’s a huge fucking relief!  I keep saying to myself ‘never again’ but then find myself at the start of another endurance performance.  The mental and physical drain from performing the tasks is all part of it though – I’m trying to embody the torment for the audience, to create awareness of the grip that mental issues can have over you”.

Are there any artists who have inspired you in your work?

“One of my main influences is Marina Abramovic (see image below) who has been working within the parameters of performance art since the 1960s.  She covers the concepts of endurance, control and emotions perfectly. Another favourite of mine is Yayoi Kusama; she’s famous for her infinity rooms and notorious dot work, but what makes her special to me is the way she uses her art as therapy.  In fact, she uses it as her weapon to survive”.

Do you have any ideas for future projects?

“I’m currently working around the concept of control.  The control I have compared to that which a mental illness holds, and the control of doctors etc.  I’m also still writing poetry so will hopefully be taking part in some spoken word nights after Easter”.

Watch this space.

Amelia Baron is a young artist of many talents.  If you are interested in reading her beautiful poetry, or wish to find out more about her current and future artwork, make sure to visit her website.  Her Instagram account also provides a sneak peek of what she’s been up to – follow her here.