Art as therapy with BAY the artist

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By Sonia Bavistock

Art can be a powerful form of therapy, and young South Australian artist Ashton Boyd is out to prove its truth as well as break down the stigma surrounding mental health.

Ashton – also known as BAY the Artist – and fellow artist Thomas Readett have been selected by the South Australian Living Artists (SALA) Festival, Country Health SA and the University of South Australia to undertake a three-month residency within the country mental health inpatient units located in the Glenside Health sites.

The aim of the project is to create artworks inspired by contact with mental health consumers, carers and staff around the theme of ‘Recovery’ for a SALA festival exhibition in August.

In the studio with Ashton Boyd AKA BAY the artist.

“I think I was born with paint in my veins!” Ashton explains.

“It has always been how I’ve expressed myself, but I think it really became powerful when it rescued me from depression. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back, I know that’s when my art really turned a corner.”

Ashton describes the opportunity as “perfect” due to the “expressive and emotive” themes of mental health which are prevalent in the art she creates.

“My own personal experience has been tumultuous, and I’m constantly learning. Looking back, I wish wasn’t so afraid of being labelled with ‘depression’ or ‘anxiety’. They are common, and with the right support, they can be quite manageable,” Ashton says.

“I’m passionate because I want to help people. If our society struggles to accept symptoms of anxiety and depression, then it means treatment can be delayed, prolonging a pain that affects every facet of a person’s life.”

‘Pacifika’, artwork by BAY.

Sharing stories and experiences are what Ashton is most looking forward to during her residency.

“I’m also excited for the upcoming workshops that I will facilitate. I’ve already had people show an interest in my technique and inspiration, with a genuine interest in painting alongside me.

“It’s really rewarding seeing people embrace abstract art, watching them let go, and adapt as their painting evolves.”

‘Girl’, artwork by BAY.

Ashton’s gratitude for this unique opportunity is evident and one she doesn’t take lightly.

“Having the support of the SALA Festival, UniSA and Country Health SA for this project is really encouraging. It is so positive to see that these organisations see the potential in art and health.”

“I hope the work I create as a result of the residency will resonate with people. If I can start even one conversation, that’s one step closer to removing the stigma surrounding mental health.”

Follow Ashton’s journey on Instagram: @baytheartist

Sonia Bavistock is a fashion and lifestyle blogger and also has her own social media management and copywriting business. Sonia is passionate about all things South Australia and can often be seen dining out with a glass of wine in hand.

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