By Keegan Oscavich
Dannell MacIlwraith, professor of communication design, recently displayed her 2017 piece “Anxiety” in the Miller Art Gallery’s Faculty Biennial Art Show. Describing the piece as “abandoning control and accepting the uncontrollable,” MacIlwraith’s “Anxiety” acutely prescribes imagery for exhausted minds under too much pressure.
In creating this piece, MacIlwraith used letters collaged by chance methods, produced textures by rubbing and created typography on a scanner bed, along with single-frame GIFs.
“Anxiety” is carefully crafted in a way that displays and explores the emotion itself. The fizzled out word, “BOOM,” and neither-here-nor-there aesthetic provide a much needed contextual exploration of what anxiety is. The letters are teased out and dragged down the piece, exuding an almost irritating appearance. As a reflection of the emotion, however, that’s the point.
The left-hand corner of the piece reveals the outline of a skull peeking out from the black background. The detailing is etched and scratched. MacIlwraith’s ability to capture the essence of anxiety is uncanny. Similarly, the bottom right warns “DANGER,” with the silhouette of a dead bird. Beneath this image is the deliberate “CONFINED SPACE. CAN CAUSE DEATH.”
Each element circles back to the main idea of the emotion itself; anxiety can box people in. This is thematically derived from every inch in the piece. It looks like a migraine and a really bad day fell into a blender. The piece exudes what any given person perceives a physical manifestation of anxiety to look like.
The message is one of awareness and experimentation. While anxiety can be frustrating and hard to bear, it can also be a force that drives us into action. MacIlwraith put it best when discussing what the piece represents to her.
“This piece represents by surrendering control, there is the potential to gain a new perspective,” she said. “The unexpected makes life and work interesting and exciting.”
“Anxiety” is an interesting piece. The work is uncomfortable in places, but deliberately so and in a way that opens up discussion on anxiety and mental health.
Categories: Arts & Entertainment