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Image of the Week: Day 489, Perfect Focus

15 May, 2015

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In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week (11-17 May) our image of the week is Day 489, Perfect Focus from Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me. This is one in a series of more than 700 drawings by the acclaimed artist and performer Bobby Baker that chronicle her journey through mental illness.

“In 1997 I had the first of many ‘breakdowns’ and received a psychiatric diagnosis. Like many people entering the mental health system I collected other diagnoses over the following 11 years. I’ve discovered that it’s rather hard to fit human beings into systems, as we are all unique. I was fortunate that my extensive track record as an artist and the skills I had learnt, proved to be a great asset – a valuable method for self-reflection and an effective and tool for communicating with others.

During those 11 years I kept a weekly diary of drawings. In 2009 we curated a selection of them into an exhibition at the Wellcome Collection, Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings: Mental Illness And Me 1997-2008. The exhibition generated a remarkable level of public and critical acclaim. The accompanying book of the same name was awarded MIND Book of the Year in 2011. A national and international touring programme of large, small and digital versions of the exhibition is ongoing.

I’m proud to describe myself as an ‘expert by experience’ of the mental health system, and ultimately of my own mental health. I now know what makes my life so richly worth living now. What I finally realised was that it’s not me that is mad – but the world!

Along the way I’ve met the greatest people, who also describe themselves as experts by experience. Mental illness is commonly seen as a deficit and weakness. I want to show otherwise that we have much to contribute and teach, and that society can learn from us.

I’m the Artistic Director of Daily Life Ltd. We’re a small arts and mental health organization based in East London. Our mission is to create powerful art that changes the way people think about mental health.

We believe that art can provoke a ‘way of looking’ rather than just providing material to look at. It is wise to never underestimate the extraordinary capacity we all have through the creative arts for illumination.”

Bobby Baker

Follow Bobby Baker on Twitter or visit Daily Life Ltd’s website for more information. 

Image credit: Day 489, Perfect Focus from Bobby Baker’s Diary Drawings: Mental Illness and Me, 1998 – 2007; Watercolour paper, pencil, watercolour; Drawing © Bobby Baker, Photograph © Andrew Whittuck

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