Allen Spetnagel

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Illustration ’02

I’m an alumnus of the RISD Illustration class of 2002 and have been living in recovery from schizophrenia since 2004. I use the term “living in recovery” because schizophrenia is a mental illness that has no cure. The mere fact that I make any artwork at all is an act of rebellion against my disease. People with schizophrenia sometimes exist in what has been called a “secondary theater of operations,” which I would describe as a reality within the perceived reality that we all try to agree upon and adhere to. This unreal, secondary reality can lead one to interpret statements and events in a drastically different manner from his or her peers. It can lead to anger, fear, and anxiety that eventually express themselves in different form. My method for creating has become less concerned with content and quality and more concerned with regularity. I am interested in creating structure in my life to combat the intrusive feeling that nothing in life has positive consequences. That feeling of apathy is my schizophrenia taking control. I schedule time devoted to art making every day. I draw for at least an hour every morning as soon as I wake up. I try to paint or accomplish more free-form projects in the afternoons. Keeping up with my tasks of daily living and avoiding social isolation are equally challenging. A small bit of art–making, however, is a tangible sign that I am still making progress in my recovery.