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Undergraduate Penny Stamps
Senior Exhibition

University of Michigan
                    Ann Arbor

Growing, 2022

        "Welcome to My Fucking Brain" is an art installation with an artist book that embodies my relentless determination to make meaning from my struggle with mental health. Growing up in a predominately white suburb in Connecticut, I grappled with my identity as a queer Latino with generalized anxiety

and panic disorder. 

        To process my anxieties, I write an endless stream of consciousness on anything that can act as a piece of paper and then disfigure and reconfigure the text in many different ways. I hang the text up. I tear it apart. I put it back together. I obscure it with charcoal, ink, and wax paper. I crumple it up. Sometimes, I throw it in the trash to never be used again. I manifest how consuming anxiety can be. Rather than hiding this struggle, I welcome it and reveal it to the viewer. The walls are an archive of my struggle, and the artist book, "Querencia", suggests a path through grief and loneliness to growth and meaning. By showing the messy process and the resulting book, I invite people to be more curious about mental health and those who share similar struggles to feel understood and more hopeful.

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        Welcome to My Fucking Brain seeks to emphasize the importance of mental illness awareness, especially for LGBTQ BIPOCs and encourages others to visualize and understand their own mental health and the struggles they may experience from internal and external pressures. The purpose of creating an immersive space is to unveil the public and private behaviors that surface from mental illness. The repetitive and obsessive writing and drawings are given shapes and patterns displayed throughout the entire space to create a congested area filled with obscured thoughts and feelings that to both the viewer and the self is indecipherable. The continuous behavior and expressions from individuals suffering from mental illness as described through my own experience are represented by the tearing and rearranging of the written text on paper, crafted into a mess that explores struggle, grief, and pain within the chaos. Rather than this space existing as a placeholder for the book with which readers can interact with, audio is played throughout the studio to allow my presence to exist and breathe within the space as it takes shape into my 'brain'. This sound characterizes the various thoughts that frequently cross and overlap each other, constantly creating a nonsense that fills the space with a low hum.


        In contrast to this overwhelming experience is the focus that comes from the book, Archives of the Wanderlust Ghost Vol. 1; Querencia, which audiences will interact with. While the space around them is confusing and difficult to navigate, the book acts as my attempt in piecing together the chaotic scribbles and torn paper to show growth in an imperfect but thoughtful way. Viewers are given a moment to intimately open and read moments of poetry and prose that provide a sense of direction where my voice is focused so as to lead them through my life with a structure I can craft myself. This juxtaposition of artistry from the environment that the book exists in is used to explore the significant layers that come from being a queer Latino with mental illness. Audiences will come to understand the dimensionality of mental illness and how art can be used to represent such complex subjects in a journey that comes from pain, grief, and loneliness, to joy, love, and humor.

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Project • Pieces  Process  


As Seen Through Anxiety and Depression

         Using primarily large sheets of paper and sharpie to write, the physical representation of my brain emulates the obsessive thoughts I endure during severe moments of anxiety that can occur for what feels like endless weeks or months. These thoughts are distorted and rearranged in my head, the paper crumpled and torn and thrown away, pieced together in any means from glue and paint to bandaids and staples. To separate this overwhelming environment within the exhibition, curtains on either side are used to create a boundary between my brain and the space around it, providing a level of intimacy in which a person can come and explore the indecipherable language that floods my brain. Along with this installation comes my voice that uses overlapping audio to further stress the incoherency that develops from anxiety and plummets into loneliness or what I could better describe as depression. My voice is the embodiment of my thoughts occupying this space so as to describe more than just an installation but an environment in which I fully exist in. 


As Seen From Pain to Growth

        The artist book titled Archives of the Wanderlust Ghost Vol. 1: Querenciais a collection of moments that follow the endless walks I would take in order to think and reflect in my pain and loneliness. Querencia became the point to which I hope others would follow in experiencing my work for too often are people with mental illness visually represented as someone in pain, unable to walk by themselves, but all I did was walk. All I did for months on end in the cold Michigan winter was walk and think and reflect and feel everything weigh down on me. Until one day I could float just a bit, and things seemed sweeter. Querencia became my endless determination to grapple with my fear and anxiety and let myself exist and take space as hectically and creatively as anyone else. As a hand-crafted artist book, it takes all the pieces around it, the torn up trash that made no sense pinned together by a smear of glue or tape, and turned it into a collection of moments where I piece them together slowly, carefully, into a story made tangible. Comprised of poetry and prose, Querencia creates an interactive experience in which audiences can dive deeper into my thoughts. It sits atop a shelf within the chaos turning torn up pieces of text into sentences and lives within a handmade box to resemble the gift I believe the work is for others. Readers are pulled into an artist book, unraveling maps and smaller books, reading stitched fabrics and cut out paper, and see the wonder that story-telling can influence our experiences to make something as complex and painful as mental illness become an experience in which others can share and feel just a little more hopeful. 

Studio Preview


Artist Book Preview


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