The invisible nature of mental health through visible art

Shelley Clarke is an emerging local artist whose work delves into her determination to "have a life", with her art at Belconnen Art Centre.

Shelley Clarke is an emerging local artist whose work delves into her determination to "have a life", with her art at Belconnen Art Centre.

Shelley Clarke is an emerging local artist whose work delves into her determination to "have a life" despite experiencing physical and psychological trauma, and the depths of despair, rage and hopelessness that accompany such experiences.

Her work Precious (featured on the cover of this I-Day supplement) speaks of pain, healing and the invisible nature of mental health issues.

This work, along with others by artists from Belconnen Arts Centre's IGNITE: Alternative Arts Academy, will appear in an upcoming exhibition titled (In)visible, that considers the disruptive potential of disability and how it can unsettle understandings of lived experience of difference or "otherness."

"Despite my mental conditions, I still consider my mind to be an extremely precious possession," Shelley said.

Expressing herself through a variety of media and driven by values of courage and authenticity, she finds her art making empowering.

(In)visible aims to promote art such as Shelley's, that pushes, extends and explores the boundaries of art, what it looks like, how it is made and the people who make it.

As for the IGNITE program, Shelley is most enthusiastic. "I can't speak highly enough of the opportunities and the support of those involved with IGNITE; Penny Pollard (coordinator of the IGNITE program), the teachers and their assistants, as well as all the staff at Belconnen Arts Centre."

Penny Pollard was herself an IGNITE participant until 2018, when she was employed by Belconnen Arts Centre to take over management of the program. Positive transformation can occur when society sees leaders who have disabilities, and authentic leaders such as Penny are vital to facilitate change in the disability sector and to help reshape and construct fresh understandings of disability.

Penny says she finds great enjoyment working with IGNITE artists and developing close working relationships, stating that she, "wants to create networks that mentor and support artists to achieve the positive and professional lives of their choosing, and to work with the wider community to develop enriching alliances that challenge perceptions about difference and disability."

Programs such as IGNITE forge strong and positive links to supportive communities, push the boundaries and challenge thinking about experiences of disability and artistic practice, and render visible the invisible to establish disability as a valued human condition.

(In)visible opens 6pm Friday, November 29 at Belconnen Arts Centre, 118 Emu Bank, Belconnen.

Visit belconnenartscentre.com.au/invisible for more information.

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