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Janus Revisted

Revisted - Valerie Yeo.png

Artist: Valerie Yeo

Portland, OR

Ethnicity: Chinese

(1) Identify your creative focus 

This project was creating in a digital painting medium (i.e. Procreate). This piece is a companion to my first submission on April 12, 2021. There is a lot of overlap in the meaning between these two pieces, with some differences, detailed below.


(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 this project, I again wanted to explore the concept of duality and the embodiment of multiple meanings and paths forward. As in the previous painting, I wanted to reimagine Janus as an Asian femme. The koi surrounding the Janus femme represents perseverance and overcoming seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Additionally, the lotus flowers represent self-regeneration and rebirth. This project is representative of one’s journey of emerging from dark spaces into light.

(3)  What is the personal meaning of your submission? 

I often fear becoming overwhelmed by heavier emotions, and do not always remember that the heavy emotions can be a gift. We are more whole when we embrace and accept the spectrum of both light and dark.

(4)  What lessons were learned from participating in the project?

Similar to the first piece, I tried to focus on the process of making this piece, rather than on the final product. I allowed myself permission to create this piece in the moment, rather than planning out the entire composition from the beginning.

(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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