I made the ‘American Shaman’ piece several years ago. I was interested in the idea of shamans from various different cultures and how they often show symptoms of what we in America would classify as Schizophrenia. However, Shamans are important members of many villages helping to find food and cure ailments where as in America someone with those traits would be locked away, having no place or ‘function’ in our world.
Wanting to continue with art in that same vein I made this piece ‘American Woman’. With this work I started considering mental disorders that flourish in our society and not necessarily in others. People with Antisocial Personality Disorder and Borderline Personality Disorders certainly fit this bill. Sociopaths do crop up in other societies, but no where do they thrive like they do in the competitive capitalist America. I decided to make this piece over BPD however, due to recent personal experiences.
People with BPD thriving in America is merely my own opinion based on relatives I have with this disorder and how I see them being treated by others. BPD is predominantly occupied by women and in America we are all too accepting of the “women are crazy” anecdote. Not to say that because we accept this women become Borderline. What I am saying is that because we accept this many women with this problem do not seek help and instead are accepted as just being that way because they are female.
BPD deals with issues of empathy, unlike sociopaths they do feel for others, just not when they are upset. When they are upset they will kick their children out of the house for little reason, they will try to run their partner with a car, they will try to kill themselves just to make others feel bad, and they will hit kick and scream at anyone who comes near. You might think no one would put up with that so how could that be ‘thriving’ in America. I assure you from personal experience that many people will put up with that, because many believe women just go crazy sometimes. You’ll hear things about these women like “she’s crazy, but it keeps things interesting” or “She’s ok most of the time, she just gets really emotional”. In my experiences they also are usually only hurting those who they are close to, and those people don’t want to turn them into the authorities.
So unlike the people with schizophrenia in our society who are locked up or homeless, people with BPD can go without treatment and be accepted in our society. It’s just interesting that it is the society you live in that determines if you have a function or not. I am not saying that these people do not need help, just that there is a clear difference between how people with certain disorders are treated depending on what society they live in.
I use many symbols on the body of this character to represent BPD based mainly on the DSM-5 and ‘The Science of Evil’ by Simon Baron-Cohen. I tried to show my process in the images above. The background was accomplished by drawing out the pattern I wanted in ink many times with different colors and then spraying water over it. Hope you enjoy!