Finding ‘The Light Inside the Bell Jar’
Featured image by Laura Collins
Photos by Sara Uhlig
Female artists have often been characterized as crazy, deceitful and insane, especially those with mental illnesses: from Sylvia Plath to Frida Kahlo. SCAD graduate student and art administration major, Sara Uhlig’s final project titled, “The Light Inside the Bell Jar” exhibited the work of 15 women artists. Uhlig’s goal was to start a conversation about mental illness in women and challenge the notion of the “hysterical” or “troubled,” female artist.
“I knew that I wanted it to be something that people could relate to. For me, art exhibitions that have some sort of conceptual aspect that pulls me in, those are the ones that I remember,” said the Durham, North Carolina native. “Sylvia Plath for me is important because she gets really boiled down to just, she stuck her head in the oven…. Zelda Fitzgerald was just F. Scott’s crazy wife, who cares?… Frida Kahlo? Oh, she was crippled and the unibrow.”
The title of the exhibit is a play on Sylvia Plath’s novel “The Bell Jar.”
“’The Bell Jar’ just came to me late at night one day… it was really important to me in high school. I know that it’s really important to a lot of women that I know,” said Uhlig. “The good that comes from the darkness. The light shining inside.”
Uhlig shared that coming up with a concept was a difficult task for her and that she drew inspiration from her own experiences, having been recently diagnosed with anxiety. “Everyone in the show is really amazing and I’m so happy I focused in on the mental health aspect, because I had just been diagnosed with anxiety and… I wanted to be able to connect with my artists on a personal level. I thought that was important for my first show.”
Female artists from all over sent in their artwork to Uhlig, a lot of them sharing with her the mental illness they suffered from and how that played a role in their art. “Every time I go somewhere and there are a lot of female artists I am always struck by it,” said Uhlig. “The whole female aspect came from being a huge feminist and a huge supporter of women and I had been researching women artists a lot… I was so inspired to say, hey, I love women, where are all the women artists at?”
The show opened on Thursday, May 7 and ran until May 9 at the Sulfur Studios gallery.
“I wanted to support something that was up and coming,” said Uhlig, when asked why she chose Sulfur Studios. The works varied in media: from charcoal to paint, 2D to 3D. The all-white studio space accommodated the unique pieces well. Women and men of all ages attended the opening reception, taking in the art as well as helping themselves to the snacks and refreshments.
“It’s been so fun. It’s been great,” said Uhlig, commenting on the experience.
For information on the exhibit, visit The Light Inside the Bell Jar website.
Written by Asli Shebe.