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Multimedia artist Christine Bush Roman explores feelings of anxiety and seeks to challenge expectations in her work

Multimedia artist Christine Bush Roman explores feelings of anxiety and seeks to challenge expectations in her work
March 2023

See her work this month at Miller Gallery’s pop-up exhibit at Hed Hi Studio

Multimedia artist Christine Bush Roman often uses symbols in her work to help her process anxiety and depression, but she encourages viewers to discover their own narratives; (Above Right) Off We Go (mixed media on canvas, 24 x 18 inches, 2022) 

A look through Christine Bush Roman’s portfolio reveals that the multimedia artist knows life can be beautiful and tragic, serious and absurd—sometimes all at the same time. Using traditional water-based drawing and painting materials combined with collage and textiles, she creates vibrant, abstract, and intensely personal works, often encouraing the viewer to think more deeply about the potential meanings. 

For example, in Wants and Needs, three dog-like creatures cavort in a yellow circle against a jet-black background. The circle is a safe pool of light in the maw of infinite deep space. The animals’ faces are obscured by striped pink hexagons as if to protect their privacy. 

Bush Roman is a mother, wife, educator, storyteller, and animal welfare activist. Yes, viewers could look through those lenses to decipher the symbology in her pieces, but she’d rather they find their own narrative. 

As a high-school student, Bush Roman turned to painting as a way to manage depression and went on to earn her bachelor’s and master’s degrees in fine arts from the University of Georgia. Her work has been exhibited nationally, as well as locally at Piccolo Spoleto, Saul Alexander Gallery, Park Circle Gallery, and City Gallery at Waterfront Park. See her work this month at Miller Gallery’s pop-up at Hed Hi Studio. Here, Bush Roman shares why her goal is to “do the scary things.”

Aspiring Artist: I got into making art in high school. I stumbled on it as a way to deal with my emotions. I wasn’t trying to be an artist; it evolved as I started painting to deal with anxiety and depression. I made these huge paintings in my parents’ basement that I never intended to show anyone, but by the time I graduated, I knew I wanted to be an artist.

Healing Power: Art probably isn’t going to cure anxiety or depression, but it helps process those feelings. Having a visual representation of what I’m going through helps me feel more in control. Instead of just sitting with intense feelings, I give them story, symbols, and a world of their own. I like to talk about mental illness in my work because there’s such a stigma. There’s a huge push in our society to pretend you’re fine when you’re not.

Evolving Picture: As I matured, my relationship with mental illness has changed. My library of symbolism has grown, so after painting for 15 to 20 years, I have a big toolbox I can pull from. When I became a mother, I had terrible postpartum depression, and my imagery was darker at that time. We later discovered our first child is autistic, and her constant crying was due to sensory overload. The more I learned about neurodivergence, my imagery started to evolve. I became fascinated with differently wired brains.

Connecting to the Inner Self: I have a really active imagination, and I spend a lot of time in my own head. It keeps my imagination alive, but it does make me feel like an outsider because other people aren’t having these vivid, wild experiences on a daily basis. It can make you feel out of sync to be different, but I wouldn’t change it. Learning to maintain your true self is one of the reasons I’ve homeschooled my kids.

Challenging Expectations: Education in traditional settings can be a form of compliance training; some therapies for autistic kids are called “compliance training.” I decided not to go that route for my family. If you don’t actively hold onto your imagination, it’s gone. Another example is social media; there’s huge pressure to produce a certain kind of content, and it’s all supposed to be polished, marketable, and purchase-ready. That’s not natural for me. My work is weird and wild, and I want to post that, but it doesn’t rank well on social media. There’s pressure to change, but I’ve never been good at conforming. 

Bold Steps: I’d love to get back into the classroom. I taught at UGA and loved helping people develop their ideas. I want to lift students up and help them find their own genius. I’m building a store on my website where I can put some of my weirder work. My goal this year is to do the scary things.