Conceptual - NOMINEE: Shellye Tow
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The photographic series Exposed uses visual imagery to unveil the reality of mental illness in an effort to wrestle with the stigma faced in society by those who suffer from these disorders. By highlighting personalized narratives of the struggle with psychological illnesses the social stigmas and reactions are divulged through this body of work.
Mental illness plagues millions and holds no prejudice against age, ethnicity, financial status, gender, or sexual preference. Each image in this series depicts an individual afflicted by such conditions as bi-polar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia, addiction or depression illustrated through symbolism and metaphor. Exposed began as a series of self-portraits that reflected my personal conviction in the fight against the tragic, shame ridden stigma faced by sufferers, to raise greater awareness regarding these disorders and to offer hope to people who are affected. The portraits than transformed into portraits of others troubles by mental illness. After engaging sufferers in conversation and documenting their stories, art can be created that further embodies their feelings, attitudes, and ideas. The work challenges viewers to look at the images and question their own reactions and opinions when it comes to mental illness.
Much of the inspiration of this series comes from the work of Jerry Uelsemann. His black and white surreal photos take viewers to dream like images that are not unlike abstruse experiences suffered by mental patients. The satirical images of Cindy Sherman that question personal identity and stereotypes also serve to inform many of the images. Exposed is also influenced by the works of photographer Francesca Woodman who struggled with isolating bouts of mental illness before succumbing to suicide at the age of 22.
Shellye Tow has had an interest in art from the time she was a child. She grew up loving to sketch and that Developed into a deep interest in the arts with a focus in photography. She utilizes photography to tell narratives about deep inner personal struggles in an effort to make social statements reflecting stigmas. Through her art she creates images of individuals in an effort to tell stories that can impact how society views outcast individuals. After engaging subjects in conversation and documenting their stories, she then created that further embodies their feelings, attitudes, and ideas.
She will graduate with her Bachelors of Fine Art in Photography from The Art Institute in Dallas in September 2017. From there is will attend a graduate program to further develop her skills and begin converging photography with other mediums. Her work is influenced by the satirical images created by Cindy Sherman that questions personal identity and stereo types as well as the self-portraits of Francesca Woodman.