Darcy Guenterberg an MFA candidate in Studio Arts: Digital Fabrication and Design at UW-Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts. Her hybrid art practice and community engagement include a variety of interactive objects and projects that present ideas of evoking empathy through speculative design. Darcy earned her BFA in Illustration and design from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2015. She has worked as a freelance illustrator and designer as well as a digital designer for local Milwaukee creative organizations including Flip11 and UWM’s Center for Community-based Learning, Leadership and Research where she created motion graphics, print and website designs. She has shown local and regional exhibitions, and her illustration work has been published and exhibited in Light Grey Art Lab in Minneapolis, MN.
My art objects provide two interactive experiences, one that creates a therapeutic sense for those who experience mental health conditions such as anxiety, and one that evokes empathy and compassion in the users who do not struggle with these conditions. These objects are influenced by speculative design, which explores ideas through designed objects rather than creating a traditional functional object. This body of work is composed of laser cut and engraved text on wood and acrylic. Their various-sized, concentric circles are inset or layered on top of each other. The discs rotate to line up revealing various text-based messages and inquiries like ‘it’s all in your head’ or ‘have you waited long enough?’ When the discs are not aligned, it creates jumbled letters and an experience of confusion.
My research reveals anxiety as a silent or invisible epidemic, so bringing moments of tension into physical objects as puzzles allows participants to experience anxiety. Solving these takes patience and persistence, much like dealing with mental disorders. Each participant either takes the time to solve the puzzles or gives up, paralleling the ramifications of addressing or ignoring mental health conditions.
The messages used are responses about direct experiences with hidden conditions, both personal and from individuals from ranging backgrounds and age groups. I included excerpts from my journal and an anonymous online survey that I distributed among members of my community and the general public. The messaging prompts the user look inward, reflect, and explore these ideas of anxiety. The objects can present contrasting experiences and can have dual meanings. For example, one can interpret ‘calm down’ as way to reduce tension, or one could interpret it as an unachievable goal. I have found that interacting with the objects while concentrating on the phrases can escalate my anxiety if feel like they are suggestions from others, but can be calming when I say them to myself.
My work uses a socially empathic view of individuals who are affected by mental health issues in hopes to create understanding that makes us want to shift social stigmas and conditions. Through my art, I hope to move us toward building a more understanding and welcoming world.