By Kurt Joachim von Behrmann
“Cutting is a solitary act. Cutters are some of the most closeted of those dealing with mental illness. Being an artist that likes to discuss ‘difficult topics,’ I opted to talk about my own experience with cutting, in art. The arm with the horizontal lines represents the cutting side of mental illness. The opposite, lighter side represents the energy of mania. The eagle is symbolic of the soul being split in half by mania and depression. Instead of eagle eyes, this eagle has human ones. ‘Cutter’ is a deeply symbolic painting. Elements represent themselves while representing so much more. There are assorted hidden meanings present in the work. Some are easier to decipher than others. However, the thrust of the work is a discussion of bipolar, cutting and the feeling of being split in half by mania and depression while trying to remain complete.”
“Mental illness is an alienating experience. The realization that you are dealing with issues that most do not is alarming. When you see that you are not like other people, that your perception of the world is radically different, even the way your emotions operate, you realize how different you are. You see yourself as removed from society. The abstract figures on the left side represent individuals that comprise society. The lone one on the far right is representative of the individual living with mental illness. I think of this work as a psychological self-portrait of sorts. It took me years to make something this abstract and thematic.”
“I had a colorful dream about what it was like to have bipolar disorder. There was a horse in the dream quickly running between two poles. One pole was bright and yellow. The other long pole was cold and icy. The cooler pole represented depression. The warmer one represented the highs of mania. At this point, my art was becoming symbolic. Objects were representing states of mind along with ideas. For me the fast-moving horse is what it feels like dealing with such strong and opposing emotions. The journey around these poles is constant. The visuals of my dream turned into a painting. This was a first for me. I had never had dreams this precise and this specific until I started medication. Now my illness was becoming my inspiration.”
“Dichotomies of any kind are prevalent in my work. The concept of two different halves making one complete autonomous thing goes way back in my work. Being bipolar and dealing with borderline personality disorder, my fascination has had some deep roots. The inspiration for this work came with the idea of being split. It is also about the anxiety that arises when something is not together. The sensation of being split, of being parts broken and fractured, describe some of the sensations that accompany mental illness. The struggle comes in integrating parts.”
Kurt Joachim von Behrmann has followed in his father’s footsteps as an artist, educator and art writer. After earning his B.F.A in painting from the Art Academy of Cincinnati, and his M.F.A. from The Cranbrook Academy of Art in Michigan, Kurt wrote art reviews for “The New Art Examiner,” “Art Papers” and “The Little Rock Free Press.” After working as a professor of visual art at Morehead State University, Kurt had his first solo show in New York City at the Cinque Gallery. His most recent solo exhibition took place in early 2018. Titled “Poles,” all of the work shown dealt with the theme of bipolar as a source of inspiration for fine art. Kurt resides and works in Phoenix, Arizona. You can follow Kurt on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr and Medium, or you can visit his website to view more of his art.