Photography by Sabrina Sellers
My visual work utilizes collage, as both technique and concept, to express and grapple with life in our dystopian world. I draw inspiration for collage as psychological exploration and relief, as discussed by psychotherapist Dr. Eric Olson in the documentary miniseries Wormwood. Moving beyond art as a self-help sanctuary, I struggle with the tensions within critical exploration: psychological relief versus the burdensome pursuit of truth. I also sit with, sometimes quite uncomfortably, the notion of art as sublimation, as an outlet for the profound discontent of 21st century life.

Through a collage of information and media, my work seeks to illuminate and critique in the spirit of the Public Feelings Project, to express through art and writing the nature of lived experience as fundamentally affective, and the affective as public— the sociopolitical, cultural, and historical dimensions of affects, emotions and feelings.1 I strive to highlight the atomization of the individual as a false reality — the dislocation of self from place and community, the disconnection of self from other and our innate communal nature, the depoliticization of the self, the individualization of suffering, and the internalization of responsibility and discontent.

In my pieces I often employ commercial art elements which serve to (1) ground the viewer's experience and potentially overwhelming subject matter in the familiarity and structure of recognizable, digestible imagery and compositions and (2) acknowledge and critique the commercialized form in which these topics appear throughout the media, the source of my materials. By disengaging these conversations from a 24/7 news cycle, my work seeks to subvert the ways in which topics of dystopia, societal and global collapse, and collective discontent — despair, depression, anxiety, dissociation, malaise, and disillusionment — are framed, packaged, and sold.

Collage is my way of staying informed and sane amidst saturation of media and self. Firmly committed to analog in this age of digitalization and virtualization, I employ collage to channel and transmute information overload and content overwhelm. Analog collage also represents my attempt to reconcile the essential value of materiality, as unequivocally illuminated by the COVID-19 global pandemic, with the social construction of reality. As framed by Slavoj Žižek commenting on the work of Jacques Lacan, “a cynic who ‘believes only [their] eyes’ misses the efficiency of the symbolic fiction, and how it structures our experience of reality.” My work, process, and theory are an attempt to ground in the materiality of the world, the earth, my hands, my breath. Through photo-realism and the embodied process of cutting and pasting, I use collage as a way of returning to ‘the real world’ while engaging with the necessity of semiotic meaning-making.

1. I borrow from Ann Cvetkovich’s use of “affect in a generic sense ... as a category that encompasses affect, emotion, and feeling, and that includes impulses, desires, and feelings that get historically constructed in a range of ways” (Depression: a public feeling, p. 4)