art book general ideas thoughts


“Even when you are made uncomfortable by a situation, you can still find it hard to get out of it. We learn from how hard it can be to do what you need to do to protect yourself. Who you are taught to be, how you are taught to be, polite, considerate, not troublesome, as a girl, as a student, is how you become more vulnerable, less willing or able to stop someone from pushing the line you need to protect yourself. When you know that to say no is to be judged as antisocial, it is hard to say no.”

(Ahmed, 2021, pg. 183)

“HELLO, I AM HERE: An Identity Crisis on Paper” is my ongoing art project, in which I am processing and establishing my place in the world. The title comes from my professor: during a meeting, in which we were discussing my work, he noted that I had been trying to make my art “illustrative” and putting too much focus on creating pieces that were aesthetically pleasing. In trying to make beautiful artwork, I was not making anything that was true to who I was as a person. He told me to try drawing and writing without putting too much forethought into it, to make my mark, to say, “Hello, I am here!”

Naturally, this challenge sent me into a tailspin. Where was I supposed to begin? How could I even start to project my inner self onto the world around me? What did I want the world to know about me, and what would that look like?

So far, I still don’t really know, but the imagery that keeps emerging is painting a picture (if you’ll pardon the expression) of the parts of myself I have trouble reconciling with. 

When I was 22, a therapist noticed that I struggled to maintain eye contact with her while I spoke about the challenges of working as a waitress, and how I was embarrassed about struggling to complete basic tasks in a stressful work environment. After a quick screening test, she referred me to another, outside organisation in order to test for autism. 

It has been nearly three years since this referral (thanks to a hefty waiting list), and nearly every day since has been spent picking up the pieces of this bombshell. Finally, I felt as though I understood myself on a much deeper level. It became easier to forgive myself for the explosions of anger over tiny inconveniences (God help the poor soul who would change my plans at the last moment), for my thin skin and for the routines and rituals that were once thought of as “childish”. It didn’t matter that I was not formally diagnosed (nor that I am still waiting to this day): this was the key to letting myself heal from years of confusion and self-hatred. 

With this monumental relief, however, came an entirely new set of challenges. A discerning lack of validation, for one. It became remarkably easy for those around me to dismiss my newfound diagnosis, primarily on the basis that I “didn’t seem autistic”. Many times I heard the old adage, “Everyone is on the spectrum!”, always from well-meaning people, probably unsure of how to respond to such a bombastic statement as “I have autism”.  

Upon further reflection, I can see how such a statement could be seen as a complaint. This quote from the book “COMPLAINT!” by Sara Ahmed resonated with me:  

“Correction is often heard as complaint: as being negative, assertive, demanding. Coming out can involve an intentional disclosure, but that’s not always how coming out happens. Sometimes you have to admit something to yourself before you can admit something to others…”

(Ahmed, 2021, pg.119)

This project is my concentrated effort to be assertive, to gently remind my friends and loved ones to handle me with care.

art book ideas thoughts

An Ode To Coming Out (Or, These Closet Doors Go On Forever)

The doors in my life are two-fold.
For every revolving door, every sliding door, the doors to my studio, my flat, my new way of life,
a closet door.

If this door could talk
it would probably scream.
A piercing, blazing wail of fear,
the unknown scorching the handle.
The varnished oak gouged in scratch marks,
peeled off stickers.

I have opened this door countless times.
Slowly, haltingly, wincing at the groaning hinges.
Now and then the coast is clear,
and I fling the door open,
delighting in the slam against the wall.

The door was forced open once.

A resounding truth,
a lesson I have had to learn and teach myself,
is that there is never just one closet.
There is never just one set of doors.
I will find myself behind that door again.


Visualising the Reality of Living with An Unspoken Complaint

“The word complaint shares the same root as the word plague, ’to strike, to lament by beating the breast.’”

(Ahmed 2021, p. 18)

A Response to Chapter One: Reflecting On My History

As a woman, complaining is not something that comes easily. From birth, we are conditioned to view womanhood in a very restricted way, and this extends to our attitude towards complaining. A woman is supposed to be sweet and demure, effortlessly beautiful, and clean, passive, and
dependent on our male counterparts! The reality of womanhood is much uglier, much grittier. There is much to be angry about once our shared history is fully excavated. A young woman’s feminist awakening is often horrific, and her protests often fall on deaf ears.

What’s the point in having the right to vote when our voices just bounce back off the wall?

I am from Northern Ireland, a country notorious for letting down its women. In my lifetime, I have seen the decriminalisation of abortion versus the reality of not actually providing safe, accessible
healthcare. I have seen women prosecuted for a miscarriage, for procuring abortion pills for her underage daughter. I have seen a high-profile rape case against two rugby players thrown out, and with no negative effect on their careers – I still think of that poor girl, her bloodstained underwear
passed around the court. I have heard stories of “mother and baby homes” where vulnerable and
isolated young mothers as young as 12 were forced to work, their babies ripped from their arms minutes after birth (we should not have to know the phrase “12-year-old mother”).
At the time of writing this, another young woman from Ireland has been murdered in broad daylight. She was out for a run at four in the afternoon. She “did everything right” – a sentiment that erases the actions of the man who killed her.
Women should not have to conform to a set of rules to be
granted the basic human right of existing without fear. The narrative that surrounds cases such as these hints at these “rules“ each time, focusing on where the victim was, what she was doing, whether or not she was by herself, without turning to stare at the elephant in the room: the story of
violence against women at the hands of men is centuries old. It shows no signs of stopping. Society refuses to attack the problem at its root, instead looking back and asking, “What could she have done differently?” The rules we have had laid out for us do not apply. We could „do everything right“, we could take every precaution to make our lives as risk-free as possible, and there is still every chance that we could die despite it all.

My point: we have been complaining for years. We can do nothing BUT complain. There are so many human rights that we have been denied, and the white Christian majority that run our country just smile and nod. How could one NOT complain when so much is so fundamentally wrong? How do so many of these issues end up being framed as being OUR fault? We are told not to get pregnant, not to find ourselves alone, not to get too drunk, not to get spiked, not to get raped. It’s rotten and condescending.

The foundations of Northern Ireland are rotten, and its women are falling through the forming cracks.