Art ExpressionZ: Destigmatizing Depression Through Art

This Voices in the Grey illustration struck a chord with 1,800 likes.
(Illustration and photo by Rachael Bright.)

46 Shades of Grey

By Kelly MacConomy

ALEXANDRIA, VA -What’s in a name? For Rachael Bright it became an ironic destiny. The artist, known for her playful pet portraiture and owner of Local Colour Old Town, LLC, hails from California, the Golden State. Despite her joyously expressive canvases and upbeat, boho charisma, all was not sunny and bright in Rachael’s world.

Following the death of her mother and Rachael’s subsequent recovery from a debilitating illness, she began to experience pervasive situational depression. Rather than withdraw, she confronted her emotional state creatively by establishing the Voices in the Grey Project.

Voices in the Grey is a series of 46 illustrations, depicting the experience of depression. It was inspired by a Facebook post Rachael came across when she was searching for a forum. Comment exchanges with others on the thread revealed that the experience of a depressed emotional state can be unique to each person.

As the project developed, Rachael transposed various illustrations to demonstrate the varied and insidious nature of depression. Each paints a world in shadow, almost devoid of light and color. Rachael incorporates the emotive text of every “voice” sent to her blog, which is then shared on Facebook, Tumblr, Twitter and Instagram.

Now that her initial goal of depicting the 46 individual expressions of profound sadness and the void of loneliness and despair is complete, Rachael plans to continue and expand the project.

The first graphic for Voices in the Grey Project: destigmatizing depression through art expression. (Drawing and photograph by Rachael Bright.)

Rachael has observed that the visceral aspect of depression is not only hard to describe, and challenging to draw, but also that many who experience it aren’t aware that it is happening. Awareness is key. And yet, people who recognize depression in themselves may not address it proactively or seek counseling.

The anonymity of the Voices Project can provide these people with a safe haven and source of support. Expression therapies that incorporate art, music, dance, poetry, drama, even creative writing, are effective and becoming increasingly popular. Celebrities who share personal struggles can be effective advocates in combatting the stigma of mental health issues. Actress Claire Forlani and comedian Steve Chang are followers on Instagram.

Rachel’s illustrations pack a lot of punch in a tight space—an empathic homage to angst. With the faintest brushstrokes of faded pastel washed away by shadow via a portrait of voices greyed, Rachel Bright extols the possible outcome of depression, which is seeing bright color at the end of the darkest tunnel.

Contact Rachel and share your thoughts with the Voices in the Grey project at [email protected]

Kelly MacConomy

Kelly MacConomy is the Arts Editor for The Zebra Press.

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