My epilepsy diagnosis was a public affair. As a graduate student in a demanding art program, my seizures were triggered by the mandatory critiques that took place in front of the entire faculty and graduate student body. Once my condition was official, I asked for accommodation but was denied. My internal world manifested through my art during this physically and emotionally trying time.
In “Take Cover,” I see a vulnerable but strong figure instinctively seeking to shield herself from harm. This pose communicates a protective instinct in the face of trauma and suggests a period of inevitable growth. Curiously, the pose also resembles a human brain. This period began my interest in the brain as a subject matter. I’ve since produced a series of images based on MRI films and drawn a human brain specimen from life.
Stylistically, I tend to incorporate layers and translucency, often with writing. Aesthetically, this approach reflects the urban environment of my youth. Also, varying degrees of clarity and obscurity embody the push-pull dynamic regarding aspects of self I simultaneously want to keep hidden and feel compelled to express. In many ways, I still feel I’m on the cusp of growth, emerging from a protective state as I continue to learn about epilepsy and how to navigate the scenarios in which it comes into play.
Renée Newell Russo, MFA, is a multimedia artist, curator, and art educator. Her work combines drawing, mixed media, print, installation, performance, and writing. Renée currently teaches at Neumann University.