“The Artist is Alive” combines painting and poetry to take her audience through an immersive journey of the ups and downs of living with bipolar disorder
“The Artist Is Alive” Digital Exhibition by Jasper Castro and curated by Raymond Tribdino goes online this July 15, 2022 at www.theartistisalive.online, inviting the world into an immersive ASMR Art experience for anyone who can access the internet.
The exhibition is best experienced with a desktop or by connecting to a larger screen, and a pair of headphones as it would enable the audience to simultaneously take in both the paintings and the recorded spoken word poetry. Through this multidimensional rendering, both audience and artist are looking and hearing the same thing in the most intimate set-up–bringing their psyche to the same place. Aiming to be a notch above walking in someone else’s shoes, it’s being in the artist’s bipolar brain. With this extreme empathy, the artist hopes to connect and befriend the audience as she handholds them through the exhibit to listen to her deepest darkest secrets.
How do you make friends? For her first day at school, her mother advised: smile! But that didn’t work and she was bullied. In college, she discovered a technique herself: start with a secret. She would make friends with random girls by talking about crushes. Opening up on the get-go inevitably created a safe space where others could open up too.
The primary reason this exhibit works as a safe space is that it starts with the artist completely opening her heart and her secrets to the world. By taking the first step, she hopes that the audience, too, would trust her as they dive in, and attempt to find healing together.
Everyone needs to heal.
The exhibit comes at the tail-end of a pandemic that has left almost everyone with surprising and unwelcome self-discoveries about the limits of their mental health.
Jasper discovered the limit of her own mental health in her early twenties when she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. A series of heartbreaks led to years-long clinical depression that stole years of her life. She and her doctor agreed that the blow-up was a long time coming, as symptoms for the disorder had been present since she was a suicidal 4-year-old. However, it was held off for a long time partly thanks to her consistent dedication to the arts.
When Jasper finally got out of her depression, she found she was a completely different person, as though she was reborn. She didn’t love this new self with her new larger frame, and new somber personality–but she understood that these changes had been necessary for her to survive through a difficult time.
In this series of artworks, Jasper finds her way back into loving herself, embracing every phase of her moods, and every facet of her personality. Here, she lays it all out in the open–confessions about desires, frustrations, dreams amplified by triggers, and episodes of mania and depression. Laid out before her, she can find the beauty in them, and despite the temptation for self-loathing, here she learns to forgive herself.
Pushing the limit of expression and getting her message across, Jasper combines her two main mediums: painting and poetry. The audio and visual cues then propel her audience to a destination beyond color and words, serving as coordinates to a third space where both artist and audience share the same mind.
In Trigger, she encapsulates the moment that could lead to a mental downward spiral. A Beta Loves To Fight captures that second before a big angry blow-up. She renders anger in its complex contradictions: soft fluffy afro decked in metallic, harsh shadows on a gentle face, and a fighting fish primed to fight housed in bubble gum. In Heaven’s Looking Down she seeks to express a more subtle trigger that’s harder to pinpoint: disappointment.
In Mania, she sears vibrating, creative manic energy onto her canvas with two pieces that both heavily feature nature that thrives, survives, and thrums amid adversity: the desert cactus and the low-maintenance Boston fern. In Honest Oasis, she confesses her sexuality, and loneliness–two strong emotions amplified during manic episodes. It’s also in Honest Oasis that The Artist is Alive finds its essence: the raw, naked attempt to unify a fragmented self. In The Ma
ngic of My Boston Ferns, she explores creative manic insomnia, delights in how it can be a creative power up but also doesn’t discount the price to pay.
In Depression, Jasper presents two situations of emotional downward spiraling. My Purple Heart is about coping with the aftermath of rejection through projecting love towards the distant and impossible, to temporarily house a heart longing to love. In Spiral Of Threes, she describes the repetitive, cyclical nature of depression–that it comes with warnings all the time, and yet remains unstoppable as it devours, like crawling poison ivy eating away an immobile house, a pinned down body.
Respite serves as the meditative rest in this series, an important calming ending to a long and winding journey. A Floating Lesson is about learning to breathe and relax when overstimulated by life’s torrential river. Hatch is about finding solace in sleep and learning to shut everything down.
Labor Bae (Acrylic on canvas, 4×4 feet)
The series ends with Labor Bae, which uses her fascination with nature and honeybees to talk about the formidable task of embracing one’s vocation–whether as a floral-scented short lived spring bee, an autumn bee that lives long but spends most of its life huddled in the hive for winter, or as a long-lasting lonely Queen Bee powerful yet damned to spend her whole life in the hive. The woman sits amid gigantic crimson poppy flowers–an ode to Morpheus, the god of dreams who fuels her art.
The whole collection is a celebration of a fact that the artist shares with the audience: that they are alive. Through the ups and downs, they have survived. The artist announces her presence by using herself as the subject in many of the paintings and also through her susurrous poetry. As the audience journeys with her from brokenness to building herself back again, she bravely brings her secrets out into the open. As Jasper defiantly amplifies her voice, refusing to be silenced, giving it her all–with her colors and her words–she whispers one last desire into the world: she hopes to inspire you to share your secrets, too.