Most people take for granted the ability to remain within their own reality and maintain a mindset that allows them to do so. However, if they suddenly experienced a period of disconnection from themselves or their environment that felt impossible, inexplicable, and uncontrollable, they would most likely understand the fear and confusion that those who suffer from Dissociative Disorders know so well. The theme of my work is Dissociation, a mental illness that causes involuntary escapes from reality, often used as a subconscious defense mechanism and reaction to stress or trauma.
My work deals with two specific branches: Depersonalization, in which the affected individual feels disconnected from themselves by feeling unreal, robotic, or as if they are watching themselves from an outside viewpoint, and Derealization, in which the affected individual is disconnected from their surroundings, environments, objects, and people, perceiving these things or relationships as foreign or unreal. Both branches deal with altered grasps on reality. My work is a window into a private part of my life and a personal mental illness that I was unable to talk about until I began exploring it in my art. The purpose of my work is to examine the disorder as well as to help people to better understand it by putting them in an affected person's place and using metaphors that I have found useful when explaining it to others.
I make the subjects in my work somehow distant or completely disconnected from themselves or their worlds, out of control of their physical or mental states, and given distorted perspectives; for example, by erasing or splitting up their faces or using objects, such as plastic bags and shadows to disconnect the subjects from their viewer. I use animals in my paintings, both to create chaotic and surreal environments around my main subjects, and to reference the connotations connected to these specific animals. Bees and wasps are a common fear often associated with danger or pain, and birds often represent freedom, serving as a strong juxtaposition alongside a figure who is trapped within an alternate reality or mindset. My work shows elements of fear and isolation, as well as a lack of or muted sense of emotion or feeling. I work with fairly minimal compositions and colors to create surreal, alternate realities, and a sense of uncomfortable emptiness. The backgrounds of my paintings are representational of the sky and sea, but I chose a blue with a slightly red undertone so as to create a feeling of discomfort and unnatural imitation or simulation of something natural.
By using a variety of media and mixing it I am able to think about my art more creatively and conceptually. By using different art forms I can better communicate my ideas and messages to my audience. This communication allows my art to inform its viewers of social issues I feel need attention, such as mental illness. I plan to use my art to draw public attention to current social issues, especially ones that I believe do not receive enough attention. I am especially adamant about making artwork surrounding Dissociation because, although it is common and often accompanies other mental disorders, it can get lumped in with them, which leads to a lack of information and treatment for those suffering.
YANKA KOSTOVA is a junior and a first year visual arts major at Interlochen Arts Academy. She has received five regional gold keys and three national silver keys in the Scholastic Art & Writing Awards. She had two pieces of her work displayed in the Interlochen Visual Arts Juried Show. She lives in Asheville, North Carolina with her family, two dogs, and five cats.