“I am an artist who received a diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder Type I in 2010. I have suffered with this serious mental illness since my early teens. I am currently 54, and I am living in a decades-long wake of horrendous life decisions, which were fueled by a previously undiagnosed mental illness. These poor decisions have left my life in shambles—physically, emotionally, financially and socially.
“Oftentimes, I’ve felt suicidal and without hope. I have been prescribed medication to treat this disorder, but nothing in life is ever that easy. There is no such thing as a ‘magic bullet.’ My medications carry extremely unpleasant and dangerous side effects. However, they also offer some respite from my inner demons; hence, this self-portrait.
“The medium is acrylics (markers and paint). My art is about the struggle and trade-offs of remaining compliant with psych medications. The Monarch Butterfly represents both myself (entertaining my self-destruction versus my life’s purpose) and those whom I can either visit with negativity or with nurturing, based on my given mental state. Obvious tropes, such as the skull and flowers balanced on opposite sides of the canvas, represent death versus life. Red is featured on either side of the image, which can represent death and life, too. The fictional medication—the huge red pill—is levitating outside of the bottle, reflecting my thought processes about taking it ... homage to ‘The Matrix.’
“Composition wise, the piece is in an ‘M’ shape: From the right hand to the skull, and from the red pill to the roses and the left hand. I wanted to draw attention to the floating red pill. I also created a preliminary sketch, which shows the crushed and alive butterfly in opposite hands. I was advised to switch them in the final piece, since Americans read paintings from left to right. It was suggested that I end the butterfly’s fate on a happy note.”
Gen is a resident artist at Art Enables in Washington, D.C., where much of her work is represented. To learn more about Gen, or view more of her paintings, visit www.gengaines.com.