by David Feingold
Over four decades ago, at 16 years of age, I was hit by a car as a pedestrian. It was a hit-and-run which had significant neurological and emotional consequences. A closed head injury resulted in temporal lobe epilepsy and bipolar disorder.
My artwork consists of imagery that connects with thoughts and feelings born out of my lived experience with bipolar disorder. In addition to the classic difficulties associated with a mood disorder—major depression and mania, and personal, familial and social disruption, an additional level of emotional pain lies beneath the surface. I refer to this pain as the “Impaired Self,” as described in my 2013 Disability Studies doctoral dissertation.
The Impaired Self is that part of a psychiatric illness that we must deal with over and above our usual mental illness-related challenges on a daily basis. Specifically, I am referring to society’s destructive contribution of stigma, harsh judgement, discrimination, rejection, fear, avoidance, and alienation.
My images are a chronological, visual shorthand of the struggle in living with mental illness as opposed to art that is created for strictly for beauty and aesthetic appreciation. These largely dark and looming images do not need artist interpretations or to be understood or justified. Rather, they benefit from the observer having an open mind and interest in experiencing vicariously, what I and others like myself experience at a visceral level.
For the observer, these images can facilitate an expanded awareness as to the pain associated with the bipolar experience, in addition to generating greater acceptance, understanding and empathy.
Although my artwork is digital, I use rudimentary graphic editing programs to create a painterly quality that has taken me a number of years to perfect. Completion of an image can take anywhere from hours to days, to weeks, often going through numerous transformations, modifications and refinements. Quite often, the final image can bear little or no resemblance to the beginning stages.