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I am an Artist: Megan Rham

Why are you an artist? 

 I guess the easy answer would be that I am an artist because I am actively pursuing a career creating art. There’s so much more to it, though. I feel like I use art to communicate and relate to other people. It’s how I tell my story. It’s my outlet, my lifestyle, as well as my career.

Do you feel art is healing? 

 I believe art can definitely be part of a healing process. The subject of my artwork is usually my symptoms and experiences with mental illness. I started drawing and painting in the beginning of my recovery from bulimia and schizoaffective disorder 6 years ago. I was actually in a residential treatment facility at the time. There was a lot of down time while I was at this facility, and I started drawing and painting to deal with the boredom. That’s how it started. I had no idea how much art would help me. It was an excellent outlet. Many of the other patients at the facility kept journals. I kept a sketchbook. My sketchbook really helped me to communicate to my treatment team what I was experiencing. It was the encouraging words from other patients at the facility that made me want to show my work at shows and galleries. I have continued to create more and more art since being discharged from the residential treatment facility. Today, even though I am recovered from the bulimia and stable on medication for the schizoaffective disorder, I still use art as an outlet and as a healing tool. When I go to a show or opening with my work, I am very open as to what my work is about. Often times my artwork starts a conversation about mental health, which to me is amazing. I feel like the only way we can get through the stigma surrounding mental illness is by having an open conversation. I talk to people at shows and tell my story, and so many people can relate. While I don’t think that art necessarily cured me, it has definitely been a part of my healing process on top of medication and therapy.

What is your favorite medium and why?

My favorite medium at the moment would be colored pencils. There’s a lot of down time at my day job so I usually work on artwork while I’m at work. It’s kind of silly, but I really like colored pencils because it’s easy for me to carry them back and forth to work. Really I can sit down anywhere and start to draw with them. Plus I love that they are colorful.

What inspires your work?

My experiences with mental illness inspire my work. My symptoms make me feel unique, yet able to relate to others, so it’s really the perfect subject matter for my art. By that I mean not everyone experiences hallucinations in the same way I do, so that makes me feel unique and like I have a one-of-a-kind image to draw or paint. And while not everyone who sees my art hallucinates, almost everyone can relate to the emotions that come with hallucinations like fear, sadness, loss of control, etc. Many people who see my artwork can find a way to relate on some level. That to me is awesome. That’s the whole reason I’m here making art: to relate to other people because we are all in this world and life together.

What is your audiences response to your work?

I think it’s really interesting to hear what others think of my work. I really don’t create the type of work you would take home and hang above your couch in the living room, so if someone buys one of my pieces, it’s usually because they have found a way to connect with it on a personal level. I like creating artwork that starts conversation, and I am thrilled that that happens a lot when I go to different shows.

What is the value of ART in our society?

There is so much value in art in our society and I don’t even think people realize it! Art can mean so much. It can be the design of a shampoo bottle, or the video shot for a commercial or movie, or the make up on the model in the magazine ad. Art really is everywhere! It really brings in so much revenue when you think of it in that sense. Unfortunately, not everyone is realizing this because we don’t value art and music education. They are the first programs to be cut when schools are having a hard time. It’s devastating.

Where do you see yourself as an artist in 5 years?

In five years, I would like to see myself as a more versatile artist. Keeping true to my own unique style, yet maybe becoming more knowledgeable in different media and techniques. I am primarily an untrained artist, but I took a couple classes this past year and I was amazed at how helpful they were! It doesn’t really change what I want to communicate through my art, but it just adds more tools to the toolbox; more ways to say what I want to say.

What are your ultimate goals as an artist?

I guess my ultimate goal would be similar to many other artists- to completely support myself with my artwork. That would be fantastic to just be able to create art all day long and have it pay the bills as well. However, my ultimate goal really is to just be well respected. I want people to know my work and know my story, and hopefully it can inspire others or at least get people talking.

What does art mean to you?

Art means so much to me on so many different levels. My birth mother, who passed away when I was five years old, was an artist. When I create art I feel a connection to her, even though I don’t really remember her. As I have mentioned many times in this interview, art is my outlet. It is healing for me to be able to express what I am experiencing with my mental illness through art. I also feel it is healing for others to see my work and talk about mental health. Finally, for me art is fun! To have a career where you really love what you are doing is amazing! I couldn’t see myself doing anything else!

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