Kelly De Waal

Artist Catalogue

Virtual Exhibition

Each individual has experienced some kind of trauma in life whether we are aware of it or not. In the 21st century trauma was no longer considered a taboo subject. There is a spot for everyone at the table to share traumatic experiences. I have experienced my fair share of trauma, my earliest memory being in the fourth grade during a protest at school. The protest had escalated once they had started launching scissors at the second-floor windows. I found myself under the desks with the other students, attempting to cheer up my friends by making them laugh. In September alone, I experienced a number of traumatic events in a number of days. Starting with theft, escalating to police brutality and ending in the death of a young man.

In the height of the academic year, I had to hit the brakes on my productivity due to severe abdominal pain. After a stressful doctor’s visit, several hours in the emergency room, a diagnosis for acute appendicitis and a surgery, I found myself struggling to manage fear, stress and anxiety. In an article by Shirley Hayes titled Trauma and Memory: Healing through Art, wherein she describes trauma traces – everyday circumstances that leave traumatic imprints or memories in our mind and how they continue to change the ways in which we interact with the world. Over the years, I have developed several coping mechanisms, mainly overcompensating with happiness and using artistic expression as a cathartic release. Crochet is a vital part of artmaking in my work, serving as a therapeutic tool. Finding a way to navigate complex emotions and experiences through crochet. My body of work focuses on the duality of the absence and presence of trauma through materiality and colour. This speaks to the reality of individuals who carry trauma and pain with them and are able to hide those feelings behind smiles.

My installation consists of a number of crochet and fabric balls in a range of colours and sizes. These balls are filled with different materials ranging from stuffing, rice and concrete, playing on the idea of trauma and the uncertainty of where it resides. The arrangement of the balls creates a minefield for viewers to navigate through.I hope the art encourages users to interact with it – by touching them, picking them up, climbing over them. My aim is to destigmatize trauma and the various ways we deal with it. Giving myself and the viewer permission to explore the unspoken in a safe space.