I recently created a mixed media piece on the co-optation of mutual aid for Carnegie Mellon’s Center for the Arts in Society. The materials used, particularly the use of stitching into a photograph of my arm, are a direct reference to Agnes Richter – a 19th century seamstress who was confined to a psychiatric ward in Germany for the majority of her life. While confined, she stitched narratives into every inch of the inside of her institutional uniform (women were denied pen and paper but allowed “feminine crafts” such as stitching). Her work was “discovered” after her death by Hans Prinzhorn, a psychiatrist who had an interest in collecting “outsider art” by psychiatric patients (a co-optation). Cross-stitching words into my paper arm on canvas is a direct reference to Agnes’s jacket and my interpretations of it as a subversive act.

Check out my full project here, and read the curator’s statement here.

[Image Description: photograph of an artistic collage on a vibrant red canvas with a white border. On the left side of the collage, there is a textural paper collage of different patterns and colors. Some parts of the collage spill off the left side of the canvas. There is a piece of soft green and light green paper ripped on all edges, overlapped with rows of fuzzy green lines against a dark green background. On top of this image, there is a light green, patchy, moss-like, vibrant green and pink image. Above this, dark water ripples with a slight pinkish hue. In the center, pink petals in water. In the middle of the canvas, there is an arm, cut off at the elbow, holding a pen. There is cross-stitched text in the arm in different colors of thread and fonts. “crazy” in gray-green blocky font. “oppression” in burnt orange computer-like font. “rebel” in dark grey computer-like font. “madnes” in part light gray and part dark gray block font. “collective” in burnt orange computer-like font with the word “organize” on top of it in dark gray. “Neurodivergent” in light gray, computer-like font. “trauma” in dark gray, computer-like font. The word “trauma” has a piece of thread coming off of the letter “a,” which leads to the top of the pen the hand is holding. The thread continues down and out of the tip of the pen, connecting to a piece of Aida cloth with cross-stitched text: “mutual aid / indicates / a failure / of credit / of equity / of visibility / of resources / of institutions / of consideration / of systems /who is well here / survival / clawing through / crafted eugenics / systems failure.” The word “oppression” has a piece of thread coming off of the letter “p,” which leads to the top of a black pen. The thread continues out of the tip of the pen, connecting to a piece of paper with text, stylized in bold capital letters with no spaces in between the words: “mutual aid: a new term / ,discovered / provide for yourself / where we have failed you.” The word “madnes” has a piece of thread coming off of the end of the incomplete word, which leads to the top of a pen with a faint logo on it. The thread continues out of the tip of the pen, connecting to a piece of paper with text, stylized in bold capital letters with no spaces in between the words: “watch the mental health consumer / take what they’ve already done / but do it with money + normals.”]

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