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Jennings displays art highlighting mental health

Jared Jennings, adjunct lecturer of art, stands next to one of his newest art pieces on display in Porter Hall. Jenning’s exhibit consists of pieces relating to mental health. Dominic Santiago

Jared Jennings, an adjunct instructor in the department of art is displaying an art exhibit with the theme of mental health. 

Jennings holds a master’s in fine art (MFA) with an emphasis in drawing. He received his degree at Fort Hays State University in the spring of 2021.

Jared created his master’s thesis over the topic of mental illness and was able to use some of his own experience and the experiences of others in his creation. 

“So, over the course of my thesis, the theme was mental illness.” Jennings said. “Either to do with my own experience or with other individuals with mental illness that I worked closely with. So, every piece in here is a reflection of that in some manner. Either it is an experience or just something that led to mental illness or the experience living with mental illness in some capacity.”

His art pieces reflect different areas of mental illness and cover topics that many people’s experience. 

“There are certain ones where it’s a specific illness that’s mentioned.” Jennings said. “So, there’s one that talks about dementia and obviously I don’t deal with dementia, but I know individuals who dealt with dementia, and so there’s an interpretation from the outside looking in. You watch someone deteriorate slowly. 

Suicide was one of the main topics of Jennings’ work.

“There’s a lot of people that deal with mental illness that end up having suicidal thoughts, so there are things that deal with that.” Jennings said. “And in some of the pieces, it talks about depression anxiety. I try to keep it open to interpretation, but I mean when I’m working on a certain piece, there are certain ideas that go into that piece. Whether that’s conveyed in the work is another story.”

Jennings wanted to emphasize the importance of the objects the art is placed onto. Each piece is unique because of how it was chosen.

“The way I go about my work so everything is on a found object, so I went out and collected it,” Jennings said. “So, for whatever reason I see something beautiful in this cast. This object was casted away. For me, the literal act of just picking up and then creating something finite, that’s my way of saying that even though you’re damaged, you’re still beautiful. There’s still beauty in you.”

He wants viewers of the exhibit to consider the ways that mental health can affect their lives. And if anyone struggles with mental illness, he hopes to reach out to them too.

“At the bare bones I would like individuals to take that away that it doesn’t matter what experiences you’ve gone through that you have worth; you have a life to live,” he said. “I guess besides that just that before anything else, you’re a human being and your life experiences just add onto that.”

While in his mind the theme of all the pieces is mental illness, he welcomes and encourages everyone to look at the pieces through their own lens and interpret them in their own way.

“I like to leave my stuff open for interpretation,” Jennings said. “I make work about mental illness, but I really appreciate when someone is captivated to like stand in front of something and they actually create their own narrative. If they get the mental illness narrative out of that. That’s great. That’s awesome. But when people are captivated and create their own narratives. It means they are more personally involved with the artwork.”

During his time at Fort Hays State University, Jennings participated in a social practice project in the community. He hopes to continue that style of outreach while at Pittsburg State University.

“Back in Hays, I did a social practice project,” Jennings said. “Our project and social practice art was working with a community and usually there’s an underlying theme. I worked with individuals with mental illness. So, we made art together. I just want to continue that in some capacity here.”

Jennings’ art exhibit will be on display inside Porter Hall until Oct. 15.

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