North Texas Daily

Denton artist reflects on impact of mental health

Denton artist reflects on impact of mental health

Denton artist reflects on impact of mental health
September 09
12:00 2022

A blanketed woman stares off into the distance, her monochrome head crowned with sprouts of colorful dandelions. Her blank eyes are open, but she cannot see. In this self-portrait, “Ruminate,” Denton artist Anna Mikhaela Reyes, 29, captures her inner spirals of overthinking and doubt.

“When there are times when I feel like there’s no other outlet for me, that’s when I know there’s always gonna be pen and paper,” Reyes said. “And that’s never going to leave.”

Many of Reyes’ conceptual pieces explore the human figure and condition. Through the use of charcoal and watercolor, Reyes attempts to create a bittersweet harmony between the romantic and melancholic aspects of life.

As someone who is neurodivergent with anxiety and ADHD, Reyes said she uses her artistic mediums to help convey her journey through trauma and mental health.

“I kind of wanted to show how that impacts me and maybe make a connection with other people who have experienced that as well,” Reyes said.

Reyes’ friend Samantha Wainright, 30, believes Reyes has an expansive creative bandwidth across numerous styles, themes and messages. She said it has been special to know the free spirited and fun-loving Reyes and witness her vulnerability in her introspective pieces.

“She’s very versatile and very open, and I appreciate that about her,” Wainright said. “Because she’s honest and because she’s very reflective, she’s able to bring her own situations to life.”

For Reyes, these self-reflective works allow her to give others an authentic look at how mental health can impact a person. It acts as both an outlet and a form of representation.

“Anxiety affects everybody differently […] and my art helps me express the way I perceive it the way I experience it,” Reyes said. “I wish I had seen more of that type of work growing up –to see that I wasn’t the only person going through it.”

By exposing others with mental health issues to her work, Reyes hopes to show them they are not alone in their struggles and feelings.

“It just shows you how different people are just doing their best – just coping and doing what they can,” Reyes said. “I don’t believe that there’s any one person who comes out of this world without any sort of trauma or mental health issues. […] I wouldn’t see myself as a voice for them, but just a way to connect with other people.”

Anita Robbins, owner and instructor of Studio Art House, has displayed several pieces of Reyes’ work in her galleries. She said the skill portrayed in Reyes’ art is inspiring for her students, young and old. By publicly sharing such intimate themes, Robbins believes Reyes displays the positive aspects of self expression.

“I think that can be something that can touch a person,” Robbins said. “Not just in seeing how you can express thought or emotion, but also the quality of the work because it’s obvious that it’s something that took practice and training in.”

Reyes said the more she is able to grow in terms of themes and storytelling, the more she is able to open up to her audience. In turn, that vulnerability also adds to the openness she has with herself. By exploring more about her art and personality, she becomes more comfortable with herself.

Wainright said she has seen aspects of Reyes’ inner growth as she has developed artistically and expects this to be a continuous trend in her work.

“Every time that I see the work that she does, it grows exponentially,” Wainright said. “She has a lot more to offer. She’s just getting started.”

Above all else, Reyes wants her audience to connect with her, her art and each other. She said it is important for those both in and outside of the neurodivergent community to gain an understanding of inner struggles. In doing so, she believes everyone can cultivate more acceptance, connection and support over the importance of mental health.

“I want it to foster a curiosity – just a conversation,” Reyes said. “We don’t have to be holding hands and having late night talks, but just a spark of a discussion is important. Starting something like that is what would really make me happy.”

Featured Image: Anna Mikhaela Reyes holds their piece “Connection” on Sept. 1, 2022. Photo by Maria Crane

Uproot. Courtesy of Anna Reyes

Ruminate. Courtesy of Anna Reyes

“Liquid Confidence.” Courtesy of Anna Reyes

Connection. Courtesy of Anna Reyes

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Samantha Thornfelt

Samantha Thornfelt

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