Portraits of Hope 2007-2008

 I have just completed the final painting of my series. These images are ones that have plagued my mind until they adorned the paper they now live on. I think of the fragility of the surface and the emotions they encompass just like a human being. The urgency of these works needed to be free; or rather free from me. This journey has left me with little sleep over the last five months and now I feel that I can breathe once again. As I sit here surrounded by my work, they seem to stare back at me questioning “what have you done to me?” I am now blatantly and callously aware of where I have come from, and what I still am. In these works lie the places in my mind where I should never want to go again. Unfortunately, I am all too aware, my illness is neither curable nor is the insatiable desire and compulsive need for the madness diminishing......so I hope.I hope that I will find that place that will fill me with contentment, a place of safety and belonging, but for now, that place will live in my passion to paint; create.

This series is entirely composed of self-portraits. I began by struggling with the images in my mind, trying to use other people in my place as models, but when the emotion and truth fell short I knew I had to use myself. I had to put myself in a vulnerable position, as mental illness has done to me over most of my life. I had to stop hiding behind my paintings and tell my story. There is an inspired madness I have come to love and adore; in fact, I am addicted to it. Sadly, the glorious high always wears off, and this is when Darkness takes his turn. I often question why such a cursed gift was bestowed upon me? Why am I willing to risk my life and happiness just to feel the fleeting moments of grandiose madness? Why do I so ignorantly forget about the Darkness that follows; the destruction he causes?  This, the madness, has stolen away so many things I have loved, created moments of unforgivable chaos, and taken pieces of my life away that I will never recover. This is where my paintings are created; take life. These voids I fill with hope, and I draw from them the strength to continue onward.

 For the most part, I have hidden my illness, fearing I would be judged, labeled and considered a burden to anyone in my life. The fear of being confronted with questions that I could not answer. I did not want anyone’s pity, but true understanding would be an impossibility. Why can’t I just take my medication and lead a normal life? Why do I treat the ones I adore the worse? On and on the question circle my mind, all too often without answers. For the first time, I am completely open about what I feel through my paintings.  I put my melancholy, my depression, the utter loneliness, the constant cycling thoughts of suicide, the fear of losing my mind,  everything I didn’t want anyone to see. These paintings began as my “portraits of my hope” but I now know this is not just my battle, everyone paints their own “portraits of hope” either in one’s mind or on canvas.




​​​April Mansilla