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Elizabeth Ernest

Artist Statement

When you hear the term “OCD”, what do you think of? Do you think of an overly organized desk, lining up pictures on the wall with precision, or even a pack of M&M’s separated by color? Some may think it is quirky, a joke, an adjective, or even a choice. Unfortunately, it is none of these things. Obsessive Compulsive Disorder is a grueling, debilitating, joy-sucking illness. It is real and it is excruciatingly painful. I created this series of images and poems to change the way people think about what OCD really is, and to give viewers a chance to see what it is like living without this illness versus living with the illness, i.e. WHAT YOU SEE VS. WHAT I SEE.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been doing strange things involving repetition and obsessiveness. I would repeat numbers and phrases like a tic, shake off imaginary dirt particles from my hands, and even fold the edges of papers until my hands bled, all several times throughout the day. Sometimes after having gotten comfortable in bed at night, I’ll get out of bed and go downstairs to check and see if I turned off the oven for the eighty-sixth time. Like many other OCD sufferers, I was confused with the Obsessive Compulsive Disorder diagnosis. I thought, ‘isn’t this just the clean habits thing everyone has?’. The ignorance has caused an exorbitant neglect of the symptoms I experience. Had it not been for the stigma, I could have received help long before this manifested into what it is now. I have intrusive thoughts so severe that I will enter a fit of panic after seeing disturbing images in my head that I never asked for. After having so many bad dreams come to life in my mind, after repeating numbers until I lose my voice, and after my hands have suffered enough, I’ve finally decided to create this series of images that may give a mild glimpse of the feelings many OCD sufferers and I experience. I have been creating art with many different mediums as long as I’ve experienced symptoms of OCD, and if newly-diagnosed-me knew that future (now present) me is at the doorstep of success with even my own understanding of the illness, she would be quite happy… and then she’d probably count a few random numbers because it is what Zil (OCD personified as a girl in my mind) demands.

With a click of my camera and a touch of Adobe, my vision of OCD awareness has come to life. All poems were written by me, and all photographs were taken by me using my Sony a6000, except the actual photograph of me, which was taken by talented fellow art student Zac Taylor. I’ve corrected minor details of my images in Adobe Lightroom and left the rest to the all-powerful Adobe Photoshop. In my series, I have created five image sets containing two images per set, totaling ten images. A poem accompanies and describes each image set totaling five poems. Each left image portrays the life of an average person, or the life you may think I live. Each image on the right is what my life is actually like, and what many OCD sufferers endlessly experience throughout each day. My series consists of image sets that sometimes contain two separate images, rather than a single image edited to make a separate image. To make the images look the same, I used Adobe Lightroom to transform the composition, and used Adobe Photoshop to change the shape of and rearrange many details and elements of the image.

I have very much enjoyed creating these pieces the way I enjoy creating art the most – digitally. The moment I used my first tablet and created my first piece of art using Adobe Photoshop, I knew I had in my hands the power to change the world. The World Health Organization has ranked Obsessive Compulsive Disorder in the top ten of the most disabling illnesses by lost income and decreased quality of life. Furthermore, it states the disorder as the sixth largest contributor to non-fatal health loss in the world. If I’ve convinced even one person to change their mind and learn about this debilitating condition, that is the start to an upwards journey for all sufferers of OCD. Thank you so much for reading and understanding. It is appreciated beyond your knowledge.

End the stigma once and for all.


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  • Content length or size
    • jpeg

  • DPLA rights
    • © 2019 Elizabeth Ernest, All Rights Reserved

  • Location
    • dahlonega

  • Date submitted

    19 July 2022

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  • Is format of
    • Digital Photography

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