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Bahamian artist Dyah Neilson's debut solo show entitled Love & Fear  features mostly paintings depicting the battle with anxiety and depression, as well as the love for self that is found in learning to accept mental and emotional struggle and the fight to overcome it. 

Dyah was born and raised in The Bahamas and has always had a love of drawing and painting. In high school she attended classes taught by Sonia Isaacs and later trained with Kim Smith, receiving multiple awards for her artwork. In 2018, she completed her Bachelor of Fine Arts at York University in Toronto, Ontario.

Since returning home, she has participated in group exhibitions at Doongalik, The Current, and the Chan Pratt Foundation. Going forward, Dyah hopes to make a positive impact through her work as well as to find ways to give back to the Bahamian community.

Through the Love & Fear exhibition, Dyah aims to encourage and expand the conversation about mental health, and remove the stigma surrounding it here in The Bahamas.

Her artist statement explains: 

“There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love” (1 John 4:18).  
As someone who has constantly struggled with mental health issues such as anxiety, depression and constant fear for most of my life, I have struggled to love myself knowing the darkest parts of my soul. Growing up in The Bahamas, anxiety was never even discussed and depression seemed to be a taboo word. Labelled as ‘weird’ or ‘emotional’ for showing these struggles in my actions, I believed that these were parts of me I shouldn’t reveal to anyone else, which prevented healing.

When I went to university my anxiety became unbearable and I found it difficult to function in the day-to-day. It affected my relationships with myself, with others and with God. It was through painting, along with a lot of research, revisiting my faith, and help from friends, that I was able to learn to cope and heal. Although the healing process is ongoing, I have come to appreciate the journey and know that there is hope for anyone battling with mental health.

It is my hope that Love & Fear would add to and encourage conversation about mental health, and remove the stigma surrounding mental health here in The Bahamas. Not wanting to go the traditional route of portraying mental illness as a dark and scary situation, I wanted to make my work approachable and represent the struggle with mental illness in a way that is easy on the eyes, inviting the viewer in.  By portraying it in a positive light, I wish to show that any issue can be worked through and it doesn’t have to be scary. We can learn to love ourselves despite any darkness we might feel.

Love & Fear shows the fight between the fear of simply living life and being able to embrace it in finding love for yourself and your journey.

Each of my works, though not a physical representation of myself, can be seen as self-portraits that portray my struggle with mental health over the last few years and the way it has affected my relationships. Drawing upon historical and cultural symbolism, I use animals and other elements to portray a struggle or victory, or person involved in that event in my life. Careful attention is paid to the emotional symbolism of colours and the Biblical meanings of numbers, such as the number of times a certain element repeats itself in a work.

Not wanting to take the traditional route of portraying mental illness as a dark and scary situation, Dyah has made her work approachable and inviting, portraying the struggle with mental illness in a positive way.  In doing this, she shows that any issue we may have can be worked through, and it does not have to be a scary process. We can learn to love ourselves despite any darkness we might feel.

Preferring fast drying mediums, she works in acrylic paint and coloured pencil. In her paintings, her extensive use of the dry brush technique allows her to build up layers of colour while keeping a relatively flat surface.

Dyah is deeply inspired by nature, natural and social histories, and the symbolism and metaphors that are ingrained in these histories.