A Pavlova is Born! by Alice Straker

Alice-Straker-pavlova-food-photography-piccallo-food-photographer-agent-production-agency-London

Art can have phenomenal effects on your psychological state, and has been essential to my own healing in recent years. A decade ago I developed anxiety/ OCD which culminated in a mental breakdown in 2016, which I have been recovering from since. Initially I used my art as a pathway to evade menacing thoughts, but lately it has been a vehicle for navigating the rocky terrain of an unwell mind. The most soothing drug I have been given, without any of the nasty side effects.

It’s interesting to consider other artists who have championed art in this way. A great example is Yayoi Kusama, who has used art throughout her life to translate intense hallucinations and obsessive compulsions, into notable works such as the infinity mirrors and recurring polka dots. She states that, ‘I had dark days and unfortunate times, but I overcame them with the power of art’. Another one is Edvard Munch, whose famous painting ‘The Scream’ (1893) came about after a psychotic visual hallucination. The process of creating this work in multiple drawings and sequences, aided the artist’s resolve.

My own work focuses on the subject of food, and whilst it does not suggest mania or obsession – the creative outlet has been my total salvation.

For me, the struggle to reach full recovery mirrors the process of becoming a Pavlova. An analogy which arose whilst listening to a storm – imagining my mind whirling around uncontrollably like the howling wind, like egg whites and sugar vigorously mixing in a bowl. The circular whisking motion echoes that of obsessive thoughts; loud, persistent and exhaustive. Consistently knocking you down in your quest to turn into a robust, marshmallowy substance. It felt like an eternity as I traversed my way through vast white expanses of unstable terrain – drowning in a sticky mass of unbridled thoughts and emotions. A broken mind, conscious but unresponsive.

Gradually things started to change; my presence began to thicken, strengthening into stiff, robust meringue – forming a solid mental foundation.

And then the essential layers of glue and embellishments, which give this masterpiece it’s character. The whipped cream acts as cement between the layers of your mind and external reality, and the icing which I will continue to add too, comes in the form of dazzling strawberries and ruby red raspberries. A Pavlova is born!

My journey has been like this process of vigorous transformation from raw ingredients to a fully formed creation. Alas with a few cracks in of course! I am only human.

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