Kenyon College

Cheyenne Cardell

March 18, 2015–April 10, 2015  [+]

Cheyenne Cardell

Santa Fe, NM

Kenyon Class of ’15, Studio Art major, Anthropology minor


it’s okay, you’re okay: something you tell yourself when it just won’t stop, something like a prayer, written in sketchbooks and margins, and held in the palm of your hand like a flame.

There are two distinct elements to this installation: handmade items of

clothing, and mixed media graphite drawings, which serve as a kind of visual dictionary for the embroidered abstract symbols and flowers. Each drawing—and likewise, each abstracted circular form— represents a chronic symptom or diagnosis I have struggled with in regards to my mental health during my time in college. By taking those elements that visually read as more antiquated—namely, linen fabric and floral-illustration styled pencil drawings inspired by late 18th and early 19th century botanical copperplate prints—and showing them in conjunction with more contemporary abstracted circle elements, I intend to question how far we have come in our understandings and acceptance of mental illness, and especially mental illness in women.

Each one of my mental illness symptoms and diagnoses has a marked effect on the body, from the self-harm scars that have faded over the course of several years, to the hair and weight loss I experienced in the throes of the worst of my disordered eating. In hand-making the articles of clothing to fit my body, and in turn understanding that those clothes will change through the physical experience of being worn, I want to explore what literally wearing and combatting with these illnesses feels like on a daily basis. I have conceived of these pieces as something like elements of an outfit or separate pieces within one cohesive closet, and the outermost layer being a long black coat, embroidered with my tattoos—but upon further inspection, one will see the mended cuts and patches, showing that the scars may heal and fade, but their lasting effects never truly go away.

Through working in different media over the past three-or-so years, I have found that—no matter the material or the content—repetitive mark making has been something I’ve been drawn to. For it’s okay you’re okay, I wanted to marry the two-dimensional work I had done at Kenyon with materials to which I had a more personal connection. My grama taught me to sew and embroider from a very young age, and translating my drawings onto textiles felt like a very natural transition to make. For me, the act of repetitive mark making serves as both a compulsion and as a soothing mechanism; simply, stitching, pinpricking paper, and putting rhythmic pencil strokes onto paper calms me down. What is at once nervous and chaotic energy gets turned into something substantial and physical and potentially beautiful—something that says, “you felt this and it was real: here is the proof.”


-Cheyenne Cardell, ‘15