I recently finished Sylvia Plath‘s The Bell Jar. I moved through it quickly, maybe in a couple of weeks. For me, books have always been a wonderful distraction.
Last night I was on the exercise bike when an image bustled its way into my mind – I was stressed so I was trying to think about non stressful things. Anyways in the image, many people stood around with bell jars hanging over their heads.
Two quotes inspired this image:
“Wherever I sat—on the deck of a ship or at a street café in Paris or Bangkok—I would be sitting under the same glass bell jar, stewing in my own sour air.” -p. 196
Esther, the protagonist explains that her illness will follow her no matter where she is. This is what stirred me to paint the women all looking differently. The quote is accurate in the sense that mental illness can effect anyone, and once you are aware of that it is often hard to recover from it.
“To the person in the bell jar, blank and stopped as a dead baby, the world itself is the bad dream.” -p. 250
This reminded me that it is not only Esther that feels as if she has been ‘smothered’ by a bell jar. There are others that recognize the feeling of skewed perspective. Once the bell jar is covering you, you no longer breathe well circulated air. Therefore, you stop thinking as others do.
More about the process.
The female silhouettes are actually stencils that I cut out. It was tricky applying them, as I didn’t have stencil paper or adhesive. But they worked out anyways!
The writing in the back is from The Bell Jar, of course. I could have used less writing, as it might appear a little cluttered.
The “I AM I AM I AM’s” are also from the novel. They represent the will that Esther’s body maintains in order to survive. In the context of this piece they represent something similar, if not the same. Even though the women have a bell jar hovering over them, their bodies remain alive. And so it is true of mental illness.