Interview with Amelia Baron

What compelled you to start making art?

I was always a very arty kid, but I rekindled my love for art when my mental health deteriorated. I found that making art became a therapy, and allowed me to cope with intense emotions in a healthier way.

 

At the start, was your work spurred on by seeing the work of other artists?

At first it was just the process of producing work to keep my mind busy, therefore it wasn’t heavily influenced. At university though, research and outside influence has to be documented and graded, so that’s when I began taking inspiration from great artists such as Marina Abramovic and my ultimate favourite, Yayoi Kusama.

 

How do you see the influence that those two artists have had on your work? What about them inspired you?

Abramovic’s work opened up a whole new practice in which I could express myself. Performance art has this immediacy about it and a radical way of withholding the audience’s gaze. I want the viewer to leave my performances with the issues I’m trying to portray at the front of their conscience.

Kusama also worked with performance art in the late 60s, but what inspires me most about her as an amazing woman, is that she uses her art as a weapon to counteract the daily mental health struggles she faces. At the age of 88 she still continues to create art despite having been a residence at the Seiwa Hospital in Tokyo since 1977. A true warrior!

 

What are you working on/planning on working on next?

I’m currently working on the concept of control. I’ve recently found myself in a position where my control is very limited, so making do with the materials around me I’m creating a physical piece that hopefully visualises this battle for control and the mental and physical endurance that coincides with it.

 

What place do you think control has in the world?

It’s hugely dominating in more ways than we imagine. Control can be seen in the larger scale of politics, society and authority but can also be seen in the simple day to day scenarios of independent choice and obsession. Control can be used for both positive and negative outcomes, but like with power, we need to be conscious of the consequences.

 

What do you want to communicate about control in your work?

In the grand scheme of things I’d really love my art to communicate not just the role of control, but the wider effects that mental health has upon an individual, and also within society. Mental Health has become a more commonplace subject- especially on social media sites, however I still feel there’s a lot of people out there who are ashamed and embarrassed by their struggles, myself included. Therefore by producing art based on these struggles I hope to offer the chance to open up a discourse, or at least let the viewer know they’re not alone in their daily battles.

 

How do you feel about the way mental health is depicted in mainstream media?

More awareness has been made but there’s still so much more that can be done. I also find that it can have negative affects at times, especially when it comes to cases such as anorexia, the stories seem glorified and can be extremely triggering. For example, social media and magazines are saturated with “before and after selfies”. That’s why I try to use my art to show the behaviours behind the emaciated figures, or the images we so often associate with anorexia, depression, obsession etc.

 

How important is the process to you (when compared to the importance of the final product)?

For my piece Obsession For Perfection, process held significant importance. Through the process, the physical and emotional drain that accompanies mental illness could be witnessed. For a lot of my work, the final product is ephemeral, although photos and objects do exist for documentation purposes, and my website, but the processes within my performance are a critical way of really engaging with my audience.

 

Where do your ideas begin?

A lot of my ideas stem from autobiographical experiences and emotions. And it’s because of this I still worry that others may see my work as narcissistic and egocentrical.

 

Do you see that in other artist’s autobiographical work? 

No, I actually find other artist’s autobiographical art intriguing, as there’s always a story to tell. I think it’s just paranoia about my own work as when I was a child, and even now, I struggle being the centre of attention- I much prefer being a wallflower and observing others. I’m terrible- I’ll take myself to my favourite coffee shops in Leeds and sit by the window with a book but end up just people watching, it’s my form of escapism when I feel overwhelmed!

 

What direction do you see your work going in the future?

I have no idea about the future, which is absolutely terrifying, but also exciting. I guess for now I’ll just take each day as it comes.

 

You can find out more about Amelia’s work here: http://ameliakatebaron.wixsite.com/artist

Lady Dynamite and GLOW

Lady Dynamite and GLOW are both available on Netflix.

It’s been a slow start, so this is my first post in the New Year. I thought I’d start the year by reviewing two women-led Netflix comedies I watched over the Christmas holidays. Lady Dynamite is a psychedelic trip through Maria Bamford’s Bipolar Disorder. GLOW stands for Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling, a show set in the 1980s, which tackles gender and racial stereotypes that are still alive and kicking today. Both shows have women in the lead roles.

Maria Bamford is a middle aged comedian and voice over artist, who also experiences Bipolar Disorder. Although she didn’t write Lady Dynamite, the show is based on her life and her input can be seen throughout. Instead of seeking to explain Bipolar Disorder, which in any other show would be done with a monologue by a doctor, talking about medication and risks; Lady Dynamite seeks to explore and show what living with Bipolar Disorder is really like. Throughout Maria manages a career and relationships, despite manic delusions and periods of depression.

Bipolar Disorder is rarely seen from a woman’s point of view. Most film and TV about Bipolar Disorder focuses on men or boys in lead roles. Because of this, and the way that Lady Dynamite captures the nuances of everyday life with mania and depression so well, I related to this show more than any other I’ve seen about mental illness (and I have seen a LOT).

Lady Dynamite is also completely absurd and very, very funny. I watched both seasons in a short period of time, and it was like inhabiting a completely different universe. I particularly enjoyed the flashes forward in time in the second season, which form a manic shadow over the present. This mirrors the flashbacks in the first season which look into a past period of Maria’s depression and hospitalisation.

 

Once I had binged all of Lady Dynamite, I was looking around Netflix for something to fill the void that it left. That’s when I came across GLOW, a show about women wrestlers in the 1980s. I had absolutely no interest in wrestling, but then, neither do most of the characters in the show. At first anyway.

GLOW follows Ruth (who is almost as annoying as Piper in Orange is the New Black), and her ex-best friend Debbie. Both are actors. Whilst Ruth struggles to find any role at all, Debbie quit a hit TV soap in order to look after her new baby. When Ruth does something completely inappropriate out of jealousy, their friendship ends. However they then both get a job with GLOW, and whilst Ruth tries desperately to make up with Debbie; Debbie finds satisfaction in fighting Ruth in the ring.

This all simplifies the plot a lot. One of the best things about GLOW is the way it examines complex relationships between women. The ensemble cast is diverse, and prejudices based on race and gender are represented, in a way that shows how little has changed since 1985, how far we still have to go.

GLOW is built so that the audience follows the ride towards the first episode of the wrestling show (within the show). At the start the women gather in a gym, only knowing that the call-out is for “unusual women”. None of them have any wrestling experience, and neither did I as a viewer. By the end I was excited as the characters become for the actual wrestling segments.

Loving Vincent

Released: 2017

Available On: Out now in UK cinemas

Directors: Dorota Kobiela, Hugh Welchman

Reviewer: Sarah Gonnet

Loving Vincent tenuously links Van Gogh paintings like a musical links songs. It has a mangled script written by three equally credited parties. But none of this matters.

None of this matters because Loving Vincent is a singularly beautiful film. Made entirely of oil paintings, it may not express anything original about Van Gogh’s life; but it expresses a lot about the emotion contained in his art. Surely that is what counts. The film is a unique experience. It allows you to live, for an hour and a half, inside Van Gogh’s imagination.  I don’t get soppy about many things, but as a massive Van Gogh nerd, this film meant a lot to me.

Loving Vincent took seven years to make, and I have known about it/have been eagerly awaiting it for the last three of those years. The work of one-hundred oil painters, making 65,000 oil paintings in order to animate his life is astounding. Vincent Van Gogh was painting for eight years and is considered impressive for producing eight-hundred paintings in that time.

Some of the actual content of the film got to me too. What there is of a story emphasizes the bullying Van Gogh encountered from the locals in the area he lived in, which was motivated by his mental illness. In the twenty-first century, as someone living with mental illness now, I can say that this kind of thing still happens. Mental Illness still has enough stigma attached to it, to make it difficult for me to go out in the small town I live in without being stared at and talked about. The way Van Gogh was treated in the 1800s still has relevance today.

On a less serious note- can I also say that Chris O’Dowd’s beard is awesome!