Solving Puzzles for Peace of Mind

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Creating and experiencing art has a profound affect on your physical and mental health. There are a handful of artists who have made this fact the subject of their work without seeming self-righteous or hopelessly naive. Think of Lou Reed's song Rock and Roll with lyrics describing a five-year-old girl whose life was "saved by rock and roll." However, in the medium of painting, the subject matter usually isn't the healing power of the work itself, unless perhaps you consider religious art throughout the ages. And when it comes to contemporary painting, that subject is even more elusive.

University of Houston graduate and now London-based painter, sculptor, fashion designer and poet Chloe Stewart creates art that speaks to her concerns about stigma and discrimination in relation to mental health. Her most recent body of work "Whilst I Was Gone: Solving Puzzles for Peace of Mind" is currently on display at Khon's Bar (2808 Milam) as a part of this Thursday's Art + Music + Zine Party. A second show of her work opens on Saturday, February 5th, 6pm at Watson Gallery (716 Alabama). Half of the proceeds from sales of Stewart's work at this Thursday's party (as well her Watson Gallery show) will be used directly to underwrite therapy and counseling for residents in the Project Row Houses Young Mothers program via the MusicHeals Foundation.

Joy and depression are given equal time in Ms. Stewart's work, but the power we have in our hands to educate and to heal is ultimately what drives its creation. The broad strokes and finely detailed lines in her paintings resonate with energy, calling to mind fellow British painters Francis Bacon and Frank Auerbach or American painter Jean-Michael Basquiat (whose work Stewart cites as an influence). Her portraits and abstract works vibrate with color and vitality, even when a work's title points to a condition of struggle or despondency. Stewart's striking self-portraits document her own personal journey from "dark to light" and reveal her empathy for those suffering and recovering from mental illness. When you look at her self-portrait Cloud of Depression, it's as if the lost soul and the redeemer each had their hands on the brush.

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