Tortured Artist Artist’s Books

Fashion Institute of Technology Senior Thesis 2020

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5 handmade artist’s books
The stereotype of the tortured artist insists that mental illness provides creative powers where they would not otherwise exist. It presents mental illness as a “highway to genius”; and claims that no one can be great without suffering. This stereotype is false and dangerous, and jeopardizes artists who suffer from mental illness. By romanticizing and glorifying this character, we are telling young creatives that their work only matters if it comes from pain, thus discouraging artists who suffer from mental illness from seeking the help they need.

These artists worry that their creative abilities will be impacted if they receive treatment. Treatment will not reduce creativity. We should appreciate our peers who struggle with mental illness and applaud their achievements—made not because of their illness, but in spite of it. We should remind our fellow artists that their lives are more important than their output.




"Genius"
“Genius” 

Each page represents an artist who has been
discredited by the tortured artist stereotype.




“Glorification” 

Addresses the glorification of the tortured artist by presenting found quotes that show the way the public talks about artists with mental illnesses.






“Myth” 

The tortured artist character came from the art world’s desperate need to
find the “key to genius”, compounded by a misunderstanding of mental illness
and the assumption that one must come from the other. 




“Isolation/Inspiration” 

A major part of the tortured artist stereotype is the idea that an artist should isolate themselves, and that they will emerge having finished a masterpiece. 

In the first section of this book, the reader is asked to create a new image. The black pages in this section represent the difficulty an artist will have when working in isolation. The second section prompts the reader again, but provides a variety of images to work with, representing creative work with inspiration. 




“Validation” 

“Suffer now,
success later 
validation later
sanity later”

“Your suffering will validate your art,
your art will validate your illness”