Date of Award

Spring 5-1-2023

Document Type



College of Visual and Performing Arts

Degree Program

Fine Arts

Degree Name

Master of Fine Arts

Thesis Advisor

Myles Calvert, M.A.

Committee Member

Karen Oremus, M.F.A.

Committee Member

Claudia O'Steen, M.F.A


Arts based research, art, printmaking, resin, resin art, sculpture, portraiture, portrait research methodology, portrait research, portrait, portrait art, mental health, women’s mental health, mind body connection, inner portraits, animal art, plant art, plant symbolism, animal symbolism, animal symbols, plant symbols, self portrait, life interviews, screenprinting, relief print, resin sculpture, women’s art, art analysis, art therapy

Committee Member

Alice Burmeister, Ph.D.


This paper investigates the many interconnected layers of women’s mental health through portraiture and how animal and plant symbolism can represent the way women's hormones and bodily health affect their mental health. I reveal how the artwork created presents these connections and inner mental health narratives to the viewer, creating a space of empathy, destigmatization, and self-reflection. This body of portraiture art connects five women through a series of both two-and three-dimensional portraits based on interviews using my own adaptation of Sara Lawrence-Lightfoots’ (1983) portrait methodology.

Women and non-binary individuals have always dealt with difficult interactions of bodily and mental health and have historically been underserved in an androcentric healthcare system. These individual’s stories and struggles are often viewed in a two-dimensional way, which I reflect in their portraits through printmaking processes on paper. Due to the strata of experiential and psychosocial factors that go into their lived stories, these women are not flat portraits on a wall. To communicate that visually, I combine the imagery in their portraits into three-dimensional resin works allowing for even more reflection of their layered complexities.

This paper not only investigates the existing research around women’s mental and hormonal health and the way we relate this through plant and animal symbolism, but also reflects the process of how using portrait research methodology can allow the artist/researcher to connect more fully with these issues, helping cultivate societal awareness and the acceptance of individuals struggling with mental health, mental illness, or mood disorders. If viewers can recognize others as multilayered beings with important stories beyond pure reproductive portraiture through the artwork, then the viewer can gain greater insights into other realities and help create a more empathic and diverse society.


Support for this project was provided in part by the Arts Council of York County Small Grants Program, and by a generous award from the John and Susan Bennett Memorial Arts Fund of the Coastal Community Foundation of South Carolina, and the South Carolina Arts Commission, which receives funding from the National Endowment for the Arts.

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