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Mindful: Mental Health Through Art

The YSM medical community was invited to share their visual responses to the prompt “Mindful: Exploring Mental Health Through Art. The experiences of love, uncertainty, caring for others, joy, loneliness, anger, or awe can all impact one’s mental health. The visual arts can play a significant role in giving solace or inspiration to the multiple moods of the mind. Cultivating creativity can help synthesize knowledge, experiences, frustrations, and support our mental health.”

The exhibit was displayed in the area outside the medical library on the first floor of Sterling Hall of Medicine starting in March 2024.
  • Open Up - Watercolor

    This piece represents, to me, the feeling of being forced to face the truth as it pertains to mental health. It is unclear whether the hands are my own or someone else's, but what is clear is that the "third eye" is being forced open and wandering while the other two look numb and distant. Sometimes the need to address our mental health is forced on us rather than a choice.

    Matthew Ponticiello, MD-PhD Student; 2nd year

  • Happy Days are here Again - Pen & Alcohol Marker

    I was feeling rather low; I’m feeling better now; Happy days are here again” For the past two years, I have witnessed the therapeutic power of the multidisciplinary arts in my work with the nonprofit, Arts for the Aging. Bringing our art programs to diverse older adults has fostered community, creativity, and empowerment. The quote above is from a gentleman in one of our workshops. It artfully speaks to the benefit of artmaking on mental health. This scene depicts a common moment in our workshops, and I hope it serves as a reminder that creative expression spans a lifetime.

    Lenique Higgins, Medical Student: 2nd year

  • Crowded Room - Acrylic on canvas

    Angelica Martin, Research Associate; Immunobiology

  • Evening Scraping: Acrylic on canvas

    Abstract painting has become a meditative practice and a breathing exercise. Rather than trying to achieve a specific look, I decide on a selection of colors and place them as I go. The abstract aspect allows for multiple interpretations, which are all simultaneously correct. For me, depression and anxiety and ADHD typically lead to a lot of perfectionism and spending a lot of time on tasks until they feel fully “completed”. Abstract painting gives me the freedom and permission to create without those rules.

    Angelica Martin,Research Associate; Immunobiology

  • Defeat: Oil

    Emilia Favuzzi, Faculty, Assistant Professor; Neuroscience
  • The Academic Job Market: Oil

    Amidst a turbulent tempest of colors, a solitary woman lies defeated, echoing the tumultuous emotions of academia's unyielding pressure. Bright streaks, representative of sporadic joys and moments of success, are overshadowed by darker hues - manifesting rejection, competition, and privilege. The storm hints at the mental toll this environment takes, with shadows of doubt and exhaustion clouding the scene. The overwhelming weight of continuous failure seems almost tangible, pressing down upon her. Yet, even in this despair, her form remains at the storm's epicenter, a stark reminder of the resilience and strength required in the face of academia's relentless trials.

    Emilia Favuzzi, Faculty, Assistant Professor; Neuroscience

  • Finding the Right Fit: Charcoal and pastel on vellum

    Jean Scott, Senior Administrative Assistant; Donor Relations, Development, and Alumni Affairs
  • (H)urprise: Pastel on vellum

    When my son died, I felt like screaming all the time. I needed to see what that looked like. I couldn’t make a traditional self-portrait because my scrunched screaming eyes prevented me from seeing myself in a mirror or photo. So, I made rubbings of my physical self, like taking rubbings of gravestones. The material reveals my form, conversely, by covering it. The marks faithfully record some tangible reality, but also suggest the presence of other realities: other spirits, other stories, other realms. These feel true to me now.

    Jean Scott, Senior Administrative Assistant; Donor Relations, Development, and Alumni Affairs

  • Persevere: Acrylic on canvas, Rose petals

    In medicine, we routinely grapple with the interface between life and death. Sometimes, all in one day, we exit one patient's room where life is being celebrated and enter another room where life has taken a turn. We are by our patients' sides in their times of happiness and hope, as well as in their times when they face their own mortality. In Spanish I wrote a reminder: to breathe, slowly, in the moments of great joy and of great despair, and in the face of death and of life. I want to remind you and myself that we can persevere.

    Caroline Peh, Physician Associate Student; S2

  • Still Life, 2020: Digital print of original: Acrylic Paint, Charcoal

    I produced this self-portrait during the crux of the Covid-19 pandemic to reflect on my feelings of confinement and isolation that were part and parcel of social distancing. In these moments, turning to the visual arts enabled me to better understand and support my mental health. This piece serves as a testament to the profound emotional benefits of creativity.

    Sophia Zhao, Researcher; Post-Graduate Associate, Pediatrics

  • Wedding Bow: Watercolor

    Many aspects of mental health are based on acceptance, respect and empathy experienced from the earliest age. In the Korean tradition, it is a journey that starts when a young newly married couple bows to their parents on their wedding day. The bow acknowledges the respect and gratitude they feel for their parents who have given them gifts of caring, devotion and stability. These are gifts that they will carry on to their own children. Small acts such as these are part of the structure from which strong mental resilience is built. This painting is based on a photo of my parents bowing to their parents on their wedding day.

    Joan Cho, Clinical Assistant Professor of Medicine: Yale Health/ YSM

  • Love in Grief (2022): Photograph

    With profound loss there is love in grief. We do not stop loving flowers after their death.

    Yaira Nunez, Research Associate 3; Psychiatry

  • White Water: Submerged, Emerged, Converged: Print of Digital Painting (ProCreate)

    This three-part series captures the essence of transformation, resilience, and the journey toward self-discovery and self-actualization. In the first painting, a woman submerges half of her face into a body of water, where her hair takes form of fish. This image portrays the initial overwhelming plunge into the depths of self-awareness. Her fish-like hair symbolizes the enigmatic nature of emotion. The second painting depicts the woman washing her hair, gently taming the fish. The act of washing hair represents self-care and self-compassion. Finally, in the third painting, the woman puts her hair into a ponytail, where the fish now lie orderly. This represents a newfound ability to incorporate her past experience and trauma into her understanding of self.

    Hang Nguyen, Medical Student: 3rd year

  • Stigma: Photograph

    My artwork delves into the narrative of unspoken pain and grief, those emotions that linger within us, often defying verbal expression, yet finding their voice through the medium of art. I capture images that convey stories without the need for explicit description; instead, they are felt on a deep and profound level. This process, in essence, becomes an exploration of mental health through the medium of art. I often prefer to leave my photos untitled and open to interpretation. The titles I give them tend to never convert to full story.

    Ethel Nalule, Research Associate 2; Psychiatry

  • Daily Amnesia: Photograph

    Ethel Nalule, Research Associate 2; Psychiatry
  • Yearning: Photograph

    Ethel Nalule, Research Associate 2; Psychiatry

  • You Talking to Me?: Pencil

    Mental Health effects, all - rich, poor, middle; smiling, frowning, crying, sad; all races and ages. A way of depicting various facets of a person is using multiple heads (or limbs) - a popular representation of five senses affecting one, is ten heads. A variant.

    Ram Pritham, Project Manager; Biomedical Informatics and Data Science

  • Grandma's Love: Photograph

    Grandma's love represents the unconditional love a grandmother has for her grandchildren. I am a grandmother of 4 and the relationship as a grandmother and how it aids not only to my own mental health and wellbeing as a woman but how I see the support, trust and love that my grandchildren receive from me and how it supports their wellbeing in so many ways.

    Tamara Savercool, Associate Director of Medical Education Administration; Psychiatry

  • Healing Garden: Oil

    This painting portrays a patient who underwent recent mastectomy and breast reconstruction using an abdominal flap. The title is a nod to the Healing Garden at Smilow which provides patients an area of peaceful respite in nature for quiet contemplation. I have known the patient, herself a landscape designer, for many years. When she had a diagnosis of breast cancer, she shared every aspect of her treatment with me. Surgery required disrupting the garden related tattoos on her torso. She was thrilled with the results and has since had her tattoos repaired and has put her cancer journey behind her.

    Liane Philpotts, Professor; Radiology and Biomedical Imaging

  • Happy in the Rain: Digital Image

    I hope one can find joyful moments even in the midst of a gloomy storm.

    Annie Cheng, Postdoctoral Associate; Psychiatry

  • Dysmorphia: Graphite on paper

    Jared King, Lab Manager; Psychiatry
  • Weight Lifted: Collage

    Represents the weight carried by emotions and the way those around us can help us lighten the weight.

    Alexandra Shaheen, Sr. Administrative Assistant; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

  • Anguish: Graphite on paper

    These pieces, one a portrait of my wife and one a self-portrait, represent our individual struggles with mental health. My self-portrait reflects past struggles with homelessness and insecurities and the lingering effects on my life now. The portrait of my wife reflects her lifelong struggles with body dysmorphia and anxiety.

    Jared King, Lab Manager; Psychiatry

  • Emerging: Photograph

    Crooked and unlovely bulbs arrive at my stoop and shed their papery, translucent litter. Smoke from wildfires choke California, three children at home attend school on screens. The cut garden becomes my refuge. Fingernails in the soil, corns facing the open air. Months of patience and careful watering. A newfound attention to the ordinary, and to all the cycles that must collide to create. Until at last, delight.

    Terri Motraghi, Clinical Research Nurse II; Pediatrics (Neonatology)

  • Rage: Acrylic on Canvas

    This painting encapsulates the raw intensity of rage. The first visage, turned in profile, hints at the silent, simmering anger that often lurks beneath the surface. The second face, contorted in a scream, unleashes the pent-up fury in a visceral display. The composition captures the duality of rage — the internal struggle versus the external outburst.

    Nancy Park, YSM Medical Student; M5 (Research Year)

  • Mind Abloom: Wildflowers picked in New Haven, pressed, and dried to preserve their color and form.

    This piece arranges dried wildflowers within an anatomic view of the brain in order to depict seemingly opposing aspects of the mind: life and death, flourishing and withering, vibrance and fading.

    Rachel Hennein, YSM Medical Student, MD/PhD

  • Forget-Me-Not: Graphite, Colored Pencil, and Pen

    With all eyes on us (whether in person or online), it can be difficult to be seen. To be truly seen, appreciated, understood. This depicts the loneliness in seeking others’ approval and validation.

    Rebecca Lee, Researcher; Graduate Student, Genetics

  • Prison of Thoughts: Graphite Pencil

    We sometimes don’t feel free to express themselves or come out of boundaries set by circumstances. At some moment of life, we all feel locked in a confined space. The most relatable moment was during Covid-19 lockdown where all of us were restricted. The mental impressions of that period will last long. This drawing, made in 2020, when I learned to sketch, expressed how most of us were feeling like imprisoned. We got free of that lockdown, but how do we liberate ourselves from the “Prison of Thoughts?

    Tarun Tyagi, Researcher; Associate Research Scientist, Internal Medicine

  • Burnout: Graphite Pencil and Pen on paper

    From long working hours to emotional exhaustion, both physical and psychological factors can take a toll on a healthcare worker’s mental health. In this piece, I sought to capture the familiar and discouraging feeling of “burnout” experienced by many healthcare workers, which is often associated with feelings of anxiety and depression. The hands surrounding the girl’s face represent the emotional turmoil and worries which plague her mind while attempting to put up a brave front.

    Angela Nguyen, Sr. Administrative Assistant; Clinical Research

  • Pomme-Grenades, 73 Blueberries Mix media: Acrylic, Watercolor, and Ink on paper

    What do my demons eat in a day?

    Giulia Lazzara, Post-Doctoral Associate; Genetics

  • Life Divided: Collage

    Represents the various roles we are asked to play day-by-day and the emotional toll it takes on our authentic selves.

    Alexandra Shaheen, Sr. Administrative Assistant; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

  • Weight Lifted: Collage

    Represents the weight carried by emotions and the way those around us can help us lighten the weight.

    Alexandra Shaheen, Sr. Administrative Assistant; Diversity, Equity & Inclusion

  • Don't Let Your Mind Bully Your Body: Acrylic on Canvas

    In cognitive behavioral therapy, which Teen Power does for teens with eating disorders, we teach patients to restructure their thoughts by becoming aware of thinking traps and practicing alternative thoughts. But sometimes repeating a mantra can be boring. This is an active practice of mindfulness where a positive thought is repeated 1) when placing stickers, 2) when covering the phrase, 3) when removing the stickers to make the words visible again.

    Janet Lydecker, Assistant Professor; Psychiatry