Oct 7, 2020

Behind the mask: 30 portraits, 30 days, for 30 minutes

Art therapy is an important wellness program that is offered to patients at the ONJ Centre, as a way of expression and healing during their treatment and care.

While on placement at the ONJ Centre, Art Therapy student, Susan Tanner has been capturing the emotions of her family, community and staff through her exhibition: Behind the Mask: 30 portraits, 30 days, for 30 minutes.

“I started off by drawing myself and my family, as an act of self-care and reflection. The pandemic was getting to me, and this was a great creative outlet.

“I set myself the challenge of creating 30 portraits, in 30 days, taking 30 minutes each, I then started drawing staff in the ONJ Centre as I needed more content. ONJ staff were the only people I was seeing during lockdown,” she says.

Susan explains that she wanted to capture this moment in time, and the stories of the hardworking people behind the masks. 

“I found it very powerful to notice how much we can say with only our posture or our eyes. I wanted to capture this as best as I could.”

“This experience has provided great insight into the tireless effort of our healthcare workers. Their empathy, bravery and dedication,” she says. 

Susan has also enjoyed the reactions of staff to their portraits. 

“I’ve seen people take selfies with their portraits, which is really great. Others have told me that it’s helped them feel seen, as masks can make you feel quite anonymous.”

The exhibition continues to grow, as staff contribute with their own art and writing.

“It’s an emergent thing that’s happening, it's organic, not just an exhibition,” Susan says.

Susan loves seeing new responses, every time she walks through the level 3 ONJ Centre walkway.

“The hope of this project is to build a sense of connection amongst the wonderful staff here, and offer support through a visual, fun and creative outlet. 

“The mask being symbolic of this moment in time offering protection, connection and support,” Susan says. 

The exhibition’s curator and Senior Art Therapist at the ONJ Centre, Fiona Scottney says “Reflecting on artwork displayed in an exhibition can evoke emotion, or symbolise an aspect of our own experiences. 'Behind the Mask' helps us develop a greater self-understanding of our own experience during COVID-19 and has helped to inspire creativity among staff." says Fiona.

Community members, patients as well as Austin Health and ONJ Centre staff are encouraged to contribute to this exhibition in writing or artwork. 

“Your response can be to the exhibition, or to your broader COVID-19 experience," says Fiona.  

If you would like to contribute to the exhibition, please email: fiona.scottney@austin.org.au

You can also enjoy the exhibition here.