David Feingold, 64, from Freeland, Michigan, USA is a digital artist specializing in disability studies, art and psychology and uses his art to attempt to broaden the understanding of mental health issues such as Bipolar disorder and lessen the associated stigma around mental health within society. David had to end his career as a social worker prematurely due to a cognitive impairment caused by a childhood accident which gradually got worse with age, but says doing art is still one of his main hobbies.
David has a bachelor’s degree in Art Education, a master’s degree in Visual Design and Social Care and a doctorate in Disability Studies. During studying social care David took a break from art commercially for a number of years but continued to use his art personally for his mental health and for presentations within doctorate classes whilst studying disability studies.
David’s main aim with his artwork is to eliminate stigma in society surrounding mental illness and to gain a more open, empathetic and understanding approach to mental illness as whole. He also uses art as a way of maintaining a healthy emotional balance with his own mental illness: Bipolar disorder. David’s art is a raw personalisation of the every day internal battles with mental illness and displays a very honest and insightful point of view on how living with a mental illness can often feel, as well as how society can so often make those of us who struggle with it daily feel.
“My art has been a means of self discovery, introspection and understanding as a person with a significant psychiatric diagnosis—bipolar disorder. Where language ends and questions fail to have answers; art provides the ability to transcend those limitations and arrive at a meaningful awareness.”
We are very happy to feature David’s submission and interview:
“My subject was a U.S. postage stamp. On the stamp was an image of paper money and our first President George Washington saying “Let Them Eat Cake” “Generic”. The stamp also has an image of a helicopter with soldiers engaged in battle and bombs dropping from it.”
What Motivated You to Deal With Your Chosen Submission Subject?
What motivated me to deal with my chosen subject is the dichotomy between the taking of lives through war, and the taking of the quality of lives in our own country because of lack of funds and material resources for the poor. To choose war over the welfare of our own citizenry is not only a political decision, but a moral one as well. We need to choose more wisely.
What is your process when creating?
First, I begin with the natural impulse to create. I don’t force myself to sit down and do artwork. It instead comes from a felt need to create and give expression to my feelings and thoughts. For instance, with my present submission, I had to have a personal interest and point of view in the topic in order for me to do a piece of art about it. I lack the motivation to do work just for the sake of producing something or to get into a judged exhibit. My work is done strictly on my Macbook Pro laptop, using rudimentary graphic editing sites on the internet. Nothing fancy from the sites mean I must rely on my own creativity and ingenuity to make my images work and meet my own high expectations. My final image invariably has gone through many transformations and changes before arriving at that finished stage. Some works might take as little as a few hours, while others might take weeks until I can feel comfortable enough to call it completed. The magic for me is knowing on an intuitive level when a piece is finished and when it is not. I
might work on an image, never be happy with it and then revisit it months or years later and see something positive in it that I didn’t before. I might take it ‘out of mothballs’ and continue working on it.
Who Are You Influenced by in Your Artistic Discipline?
My single biggest influence is Jackson Pollock. He certainly didn’t use a laptop for his work, but I identify with his tenacity, even working through self doubt and external critics. Jackson also had to deal with his mental illness, which is thought to be bipolar disorder. His diagnosis might have been a creative connection between his brain and the canvas, but it was a drawback when dealing socially and with his own frustration tolerance. I can relate in this way as well because I too have bipolar disorder.
Who Inspired You In General?
The person who inspires me most in general has to be my significant other, Becca. I had hundreds of art pieces on my computer from several years of work. Images I did for myself, largely giving voice to the struggles of my bipolar disorder. Becca convinced me that my images were worthy of art exhibits and judged shows and that people need to see artwork that can help develop empathy in people towards people with mental illness. My work has been presented in over 50 venues to date. Becca has also been instrumental in the belief that my doctoral dissertation in which I arrived at a new concept, called ‘The Impaired Self’, should be made into a book. After several years of avoiding the undertaking, I did begin the book through her dogged determination to get me to move on the project. She is a very talented artist in her own right and does some really awesome editing work on my book.
What Causes and World Issues are You Passionate About, Campaign for, Volunteer for?
The single cause I am passionate about centers around people with mental illness having to deal with stigma. Stigma is largely created by an uninformed and misinformed public, aided and abetted by the mainstream media, which sensationalizes and generalizes actions of those with mental illness to their detriment.
What do the statements “art saves lives” and “art creates change” mean to you?
To me, the two statements are not only complementary concepts but, intertwined at their core. Saving a life, whether it be physical, emotional, intellectual, or spiritual, implies a need for change and it’s resultant fulfillment of change. I feel that ‘to save’ in this context, means to keep a positive entity or concept in existence, whereas ‘creating change’ is a vehicle for enabling that to happen. Art comes in as a catalyst for reaching people to make them aware of what needs saving, its current negative state, the expected positive outcome, and the ability to motivate and mobilize people to help achieve that change.
Have your artistic and creative outlets saved your life in any way and do you think your
message within them could help create change in the world?
Most definitely. My art has been a means of self discovery, introspection and understanding as a person with a significant psychiatric diagnosis—bipolar disorder. Where language ends and question fail to have answers, art provides the ability to transcend those limitations and arrive at a meaningful awareness. This has contributed to my emotional stability over the years. My artwork has the potential to create change in the world by making people more aware of the challenges those with mental illness face (for a more empathetic and understanding public) as well as the opportunity to educate people about stigma and the need to eliminate it from our midst.
What are your present and future goals for your art?
The present and future goals for my art are to continue to be on display at art shows and exhibits to help motivate people to learn more about mental illness and the plight to maintain a sense of balance and harmony for those that have one. Ultimately, I would like to have solo exhibits, where my work can be fully experienced, understood and appreciated. I believe this would go a long way in transforming public opinion and attitudes toward people with mental illness.
In your opinion, is capitalism the best system in today’s world? Why (not?)
I am merely looking at an answer to this question from my limited vantage point. I have never claimed to be an expert on comparative world economic systems, nor is anything I know about our economy in the U.S. more than rudimentary. I look at our country’s overall standard of living, world accomplishments and amount of personal freedoms to determine that capitalism is the best system in today’s world. It does not mean that I think it is the ideal system, however. No economic system is ideal. There are flaws in all of them. This brings me to the reason why no system would ever be ideal…because people run these systems and used these systems, and in my opinion, we all have personal flaws which ultimately get in the way and sabotage no matter what system is in place.
What are your opinions on how capitalism serves those who are born without the wealth and opportunities enjoyed by others?
Consider who came up with the solution of capitalism for our society. I would guess it came from the people who could benefit from it the most: white European males with education, an already reliable source of income and enjoying the benefits of a higher standard of living. I think it is unfortunate that some people benefit more from capitalism than others, but isn’t that built into the system, where it doesn’t make sure everyone has an opportunity to gain an equal footing? The wealthy, who are in power and control, need people weakened by the lack of power and control to do their bidding in the work place. Modern day people who work for slave wages and maybe a bit above that are necessary for profits to be made and products and services to be affordable. Whether it is because of privilege of gender, intellect, education, creativity, self-motivation, level of determination, and strong desire to be financially successful, some people are going to have their lives be in perfect alignment to maximize their potential to achieve
that success and others’ opportunities will be eclipsed by the lack of privileged opportunities and personal limitations. No one is equal physically, intellectually, emotionally, or neurologically. It is part of nature and the way things are. How can we expect any economic system, derived from unequal and imperfect people to be equal and perfect?
If capitalism rewards only ability, what are your thoughts on those who can’t compete?
For example, to people with physical or mental abilities?
I am going to answer this question from my own life experience. I used to have a full time job. In fact I’ve had a number of full time and part time jobs since my youth. I was never wealthy by United States standards, but I never starved either. I worked for a total of 35 years. I would still be working except my cognitive deficits, brought on by a closed head injury as a teen, became worse with age. My memory failed me and I became confused and disorganized and so had to quit work because of my inconsistencies and inaccuracies as a social worker.
I went to a basic subsistence living where every dollar counts. I buy everything from certain food and clothes to cleaning supplies and transportation on sale or at a special discount or rate. If they are not, I wait until they are. Is it fair? No. Do things like this happen against our will and expectations? Yes. I generally do not like to spend my life feeling sorry for myself or feeling angry at the government and society in which I live that fail to make sure I have an equal opportunity to do a job that others can do better. Sometimes I find myself thinking that way, but I don’t let myself dwell on it for too long. It is bad enough to have to live on an unequal footing without also being depressed about it all the time. It is what it is and I accept what life gives me. For those of us who can’t compete? Bad karma or a choice we made on the other side before we were born.
Knowing the struggles we were going to have to endure didn’t keep us from making the
decision, it motivated us so that we could grow personally and spiritually. If we failed to grow to the extent we wanted, we come back and try it again. It doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t try to change and improve opportunities for people who have disabilities, though. We should and must.
What are your views or suggestions on an alternative economic system?
I don’t think there is an economic system in the world that is ideal and satisfies everyone.
However, what I would like to see done is for anyone that wants to run for office, obtain power and become responsible for determining the welfare of the the country’s citizenry, to be required to live on a subsistence income for at least 6 months. This way, they are put in the position of knowing what it is like to be on the low rung of the economy and develop the insight, experience and empathy necessary to do a humanist-based job as opposed to a job from the position of being uninformed and opportunist.
Has capitalism affected you in any way in your life?
On the one hand, capitalism has given me the motivation to strive to do my best and achieve according to my abilities, motivation, luck, and opportunities. On the other hand, having personal limitations and then becoming disabled made me feel then and now that I was part of an unfair and imbalanced system that favored certain people and not others. The end result of this was a fluctuating history of my own standard of living as well as little expectations of living “the good life” as it relates to being able to afford non-essentials and the finer things in life. Ultimately, it forced me to try to see the glass half full as opposed to half empty and to appreciate the things I did have instead of being bitter and angry about the things I didn’t have.
In your opinion—who benefits from poverty, and how?
In my opinion, those who benefit from poverty are those that are associated with the
impoverished on any particular level. It give politicians the opportunity to make promises they won’t keep and to win elections and positions they don’t deserve. It also provides professions for people who have a need to serve those less fortunate, such as social service workers, members of churches, as well as members of the clergy. Unfortunately, those who take the opportunity to take advantage of those in poverty will benefit, such as drug dealers who not only sell to those in poverty, but recruit them to sell it as well. Those in poverty surely put themselves in harms way in order to either cope with their poverty or pursue a way available to them to escape from it. I believe the armed forces of our country benefit from it because for many, it is the only viable way of ending their poverty and attaining a more respectable and economically viable position in society. Finally, at the bottom, the prison system benefits in that jobs are required to house men, women and juveniles who – because of their poverty resort to illegal ways of making money and through a stressful and hopeless state of mind – find themselves in prison for committing violent crimes that they would otherwise avoid if they had equal opportunities to
achieve a decent lifestyle and financial and personal success.
How do images/videos/news reports of people in poverty influence society in different countries? What is your country like?
I don’t know how images/videos/news reports influence people in other countries, but I feel in the U.S., they mostly ignore those in poverty until something negative takes place for sensationalism and TV ratings. That type of reporting and response reinforces societal
prejudice, stereotypes and avoidance of otherwise advocating for and changing public opinion to provide more public programs and practical assistance to help poor people find jobs and get themselves out of poverty with a sense of pride and accomplishment.
If you would like to find out more visit David’s website: www.feinart.me