There are many issues that are easy to gloss over in life. Things that people don’t want to think about or address if it doesn’t directly affect them. This is a stance that leads to social failures that affect millions of people in the United States and across the world. Isabel Ricaurte, an artist from New York, is finding an artistic way to change that.
Bringing hard topics to the forefront of conversations can be uncomfortable and difficult. Isabel has found a way to approach subjects others are reluctant to face. One of which is mental health. Over the last few years, more has been said about mental health and how it needs to drive conversations.
2020 was a challenging year for billions. So many people lost loved ones and found themselves isolated during the pandemic. Access to health care was limited during this time. Schools switched from in-person to online, and employers had to cut staff or have employees working from home. The isolation felt by so many people was a pandemic in itself. If you could go out, you wouldn’t see smiling faces, just eyes. Socialization was effectively halted.
For Isabel, this was the year she graduated from the School of Visual Arts in New York. Online classes took the place of valuable in-person instruction. Getting through school wasn’t easy, especially with hands-on classes like silkscreening. Isabel found a way to push forward and finish. She took the lessons she learned in school and applied them in a way that would help her find purpose and healing. Now, her art can provide the outlet so many others are searching for.
One lesson Isabel took to heart was the daily writings her instructor, award-winning artist Marcos Chin, instilled. During that class, Isabel could use those daily writings to create a piece that significantly influenced her creative process from then on: “The Girl and the Box”.
Using inspiration from her writing, Isabel drew a piece that spoke volumes – visual poetry, A young woman with a box in her chest. Papers explode from the box. It was emotional and visceral.
This was not the first piece that Isabel created dealing with the complex emotions people have. She also drew a triptych showing the story of a woman suffering from isolation, depression, and suicidal thoughts. Those were all too common during the pandemic. These were the topics others feared to share.
“Anxiety Girl” shows the fear and pain that anxiety often brings. The ravaged clothing and the pain in the girl’s eyes all convey what millions deal with daily. And Isabel doesn’t shy away from these pain points. She embraces them. Her personal art style tends toward anime with Western influences. Often, her art deals with magic and fantasy and frequently dives into darker themes. Artists have a great capacity to share emotions through their art, as Isabel does consistently through her Instagram account. By saying the quiet part out loud, Isabel is lending a voice to those who would otherwise suffer in silence.
This is perhaps the responsibility of others, but artists of all types have taken up the cause, showing the world that mental health is important. That it matters. That it can’t be swept under a rug, hoping it goes away. As the world is reopening and people can see more than half a face, Isabel wants everyone to see what’s under the literal and figurative masks we all wear.
Our emotions matter. Our mental health matters. If artists like Isabel Ricaurte are willing to blaze a trail, we should be willing to follow.
For more information on Isabel Ricaurte, visit her website.
About the Author
Carolyn Calvin is a mom of three teens who has seen the effects of the pandemic firsthand. She writes about arts and culture.