Vawdrey archive project artist profile: Jennifer Milarski-Stermsek
Jennifer Milarski-Stermsek is one of the Outside In artists working with the West Sussex Records Office on the Vawdrey Archive Project. She says she was drawn to the project ‘as it seemed to marry my background in archiving, own lived experiences of mental health and an interest in psychology along with the most important factor, art!’
The mixed media artist reveals she uses any ‘any material that feels right, from film to performance to collage’. “My art practice addresses the unrest within my own mind and body, the way it looks and its capabilities or incapabilities,” explains Jennifer.
The result is work which often uses depictions of hyper-muscled, often masculine bodies and works to respond to the ‘constant bombardment’ of messages regarding ‘how to look better, sexier, thinner’.
“I conform to this in ridiculous ways such as performing as a bodybuilder with drawn on abs or covering my body in cut outs from bodybuilding magazines. I also use cut outs of muscular shapes to represent myself and everything around me,” Jennifer adds.
Vawdrey archive project artist profile: Ammay Tye
“Before my breakdown, I often struggled to see things in a more abstract way. I believed that everything should be as perfect as possible, and this was reflected in my art. Since then I have had to seek other ways of seeing the world, this has transformed the way that I connect with art. It is now a constant revelation of my imperfect bits, which I celebrate and explore.”
Those are the words of Ammay Tye who is one of the Outside In artists working with the records office on the Vawdrey Archive Project. Having previously taken part in Outside In’s Step Up ‘Interpreting Collections’ course at welcome, they explain how the projects have allowed them to draw on their mental health experience ‘to create a voice for myself’.
“It has been central to recovering a part of myself that I thought had been lost to illness. When I create something it forms a part of a type of expression that I would otherwise struggle to communicate and sometimes I even surprise myself with what comes out at the other end of the creative process. Having this opportunity has given my work relevance and meaning and has led to further opportunities with the Wellcome Trust.”