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Janus Re-imagined

Janus Re-imagined Yeo

Artist: Valerie Yeo

Portland, OR

Ethnicity: Chinese

 (1)This project was creating in a digital painting medium (i.e. Procreate).


(2) Describe how your project addresses mental health and/or suicide In ancient Rome, Jani were ceremonial gateways used for symbolic transitions—particularly entrances and exits deemed auspicious. Scholars regard Janus as the god of beginnings and endings, and he is usually represented by a double-faced head, signifying his ability to see both forwards and backwards. I am a psychologist, and in my work, I often witness people move toward suicide as an option when it feels there is no other option—when they cannot see a way forward and feel stuck. This quality of “stuckness” may ring especially true at this particular moment in time, when so many mental health struggles are interwoven with systemic and institutional injustices, and inequities in access to resources. When we cannot see ourselves and our experiences contextually, we begin to internalize damaging, unhelpful, and untrue messages about ourselves. In my project, I wanted to explore the concepts of duality, multiple meanings, and seeing in more than one direction. I also wanted to reimagine Janus as an Asian femme. Similar to Janus, the chrysanthemums on each side of the painting have dual meanings. They represent life and rebirth, but also sorrow and remembrance. Likewise, the jacaranda flowers growing on the heart in the background represent wisdom and rebirth in the heart space. My goal was for this project to represent a multiplicity of paths forward, as well as a call to see ourselves more fully within our contexts, especially in times that feel dark or unforgiving.


(3) What is the personal meaning of your submission? I have experienced my own struggles with anxiety and depression. In those times, it can be difficult for me to see outside of my immediate feelings. This project was a reminder for myself, that there are usually other paths available to us, if we can just look.


(4) What lessons were learned from participating in the project? The lesson that comes to mind most immediately is patience! Some of the line work in this piece felt painstaking. However, creating this piece was also a reminder to myself to focus on the journey and process over the product, and that sometimes by focusing on the journey, we wind up where we are meant to exist.


(5) What is your message of hope? There is always hope, although it may take some searching to be able to see it. We so often ignore our heart space and the call of our bodies in favor of the cognitive mind, and this pull is so reinforced by our capitalist society. It is my hope that eventually, we will collectively reach a place where we can welcome all the parts of ourselves as beautiful and valuable—even the parts that seem disparate or that have been ignored for too long.

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