2020 Masters of Arts in Teaching Thesis Exhibition

Salem State University

Susan Teal


Acrylic on Canvas, 16” x 20”, 2020

Susan Teal

Susan Teal

Masters of Arts in Teaching, 2020

Anxiety and Trauma, Series 2020

My body of work explores the concept of self-identity. I am the subject of my own work, visually interpreting my struggles with anxiety and trauma. Using reference photos that I take of myself in the midst of anxiety attacks, I paint realistic self-portraits with multiple faces peeling away from one another, each expressing different emotions. The distortion created within my work is an effort to translate my complex feelings of sadness, anger, and fear on to the painted surface. In this way I explore who I am. The final effect borders on disturbing as it reveals a reflection of my reality.

This series was born in January 2020, inspired by the worst experience of my life; the disappearance and death of my aunt. In the months following, more events continued to add to my stress and anxiety and as I went into isolation with the rest of the world, I found myself unable to escape the thoughts and emotions that can overwhelm me. Trying to imagine what the future holds makes my chest tight and my fears rise. Focusing on the present, connecting remotely with the people most important to me, and using my artistic practice to redirect my strong feelings help me deal with these multiple traumas. Moving forward, I will focus on the short term. To the future, I can only have hope.