Artist’s Concept

When an individual experiences a mental health crisis, there is a crack. The self feels weak and broken. The body continues to move through the world, but the heart and mind seem to have slipped away. The mass left behind feels fossilized; this emotional state is seemingly solid and irreversible. Hopelessness can overwhelm the sensibilities and it may seem there is no other option than to succumb, to sit in this vapid place—pulling up and out of the darkness takes heaps of effort, more than a person may believe can be generated. The mind may even trick the self into believing that regaining wellness is a myth. In this low state, it is hard to rouse the spirit and takes energy that seems to have vanished to take a breath.

But, we are born to live.

Titan will stirs, rousing an urge to fight back. Resources to heal—in the world at large and within the self—are sought out. Once this first step is taken, bit-by-bit a person finds a path to return to the self: not overnight, but eventually the individual rebuilds with patience, dedication, and self-love. After a time, wholeness is achieved. All life experiences change us—the person is not the same after this battle is won—but is grounded and beautiful and whole once more, and stronger for it. It is understood that scar tissue is stronger than the original skin after a wound: in a sense, after being hurt and healing, we are stronger than we started.

Fighting conch shells—broken, fossilized, and whole—were found and collected in 2017 along the shore in Marco Beach, Florida and then placed in stained wooden boxes in their found state [none were broken or altered]. The fighting conch is a marine gastropod mollusk, a soft-bodied invertebrate that grows its external shell of calcium carbonate to protect itself throughout the course of its life; creating this shell is a process that takes time. The Shell Project utilizes fighting conch shells to convey the visual reminder that growth is a process, and for some it’s often a fight to muster the strength to do what must be done to survive.

There are a total of eight shell shadow boxes. Each box was photographed on the rocks at the beach were the shells were found prior to being gifted to an individual who struggles with mental health issues that have led to suicidal ideation and more. The photographs are part of a thematic collection that is presented as a statement about the difficult—but possible—process of growth and healing after a mental health crisis in an age of stigmatization of mental health.