Canadian artist Kacie Avery shines a light on World Mental Health Day with fiery art
The first tattoo that Kacie Avery ever got was one with a meaningful motto he crafted for himself.
“It was a motto I had created for myself out of symbols that meant, ‘Explore, Transform,'” Avery told Daily Hive in an interview. “The idea is that everything we explore transforms us, Whether it’s mentally through reading a book or physically like travelling the world, they evolve us.
“I deeply believe that when we follow our hearts we always end up where we need to be. So I remind myself often to say no to things that put out my fire and say yes to things that make my soul happy.”
One of the things that make the Toronto artist feel alive is painting, which has helped him through many challenging times with his mental health.
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“Being a trans man, I’ve gone through a lot with my mental health,” said Avery. “Ever since I was a kid, I felt as though I was in the wrong body. As my body changed further during puberty into something that didn’t align with my soul, my mental health declined. At times I have felt ending my life was the easiest way to get away from all the pain I had felt.”
Avery shared that he has faced depression, anxiety, and body dysmorphia. However, his art has been an oasis to help him process, release, and manifest.
“With COVID lockdowns bringing more mental health challenges than ever before, not just with me but for the people I love, I began to focus further on my art,” added Avery. “This gave me the ability to create an oasis for myself through chaos, especially with also being officially diagnosed with ADHD within the last year.
“Now I’m working on an art show focused on starting conversations around mental health, striving to take the ‘taboo’ out of talking about not being okay on a deeper lever, while still being colourful and light at times.”
To help encourage those experiencing mental health challenges, Avery has created a newly commissioned piece for Daily Hive titled Fight The Darkness for World Mental Health Day.
“Often when we are struggling with mental health, we can feel like we are stuck with nowhere to go. However, there is a fire within us and I truly believe we are capable of incredible resilience,” explained Avery, who is also a tattoo artist. “Though healing takes time, we are able to come back from whatever pushes us down.
“One of the hardest parts of going through any given struggle with mental health is feeling like no one understands you. The more mental health is talked about in media, the less that people feel alone. The fewer that feel like they need to get through everything on their own.”
As Canada commemorates World Mental Health Day, Avery is hopeful that more can be done to support those experiencing struggles.
“The biggest way to help, in my opinion, is to continue to create environments where talking about mental health is safe,” said Avery. “Life is beautiful and amazing but at times it can also be profoundly painful. A way to honour mental health every day is to hold space for people’s low days without it being a bad thing.
“Being intentional with words and avoiding downplaying mental health is also really important. Avoiding misuse of words like bipolar, crazy, and OCD can go a long way in breaking through the stigma that can be associated with people that do face those issues.”
Avery describes himself as a man of many interests, but art has always played a role in his life. However, it was only when he made the switch to a new high school that things began to click.
“I’ve been painting for as long as I can remember, but technical and realistic art has never been my strong suit. So for most of my life, I didn’t think I had the skills to be an artist. But as I got older, I became fascinated with artists that created cool styles for themselves, like Van Gogh, Keith Haring, and Banksy.
“It’s funny how things click in your head at different times because I didn’t really consider being an artist until I transferred to my alternative high school, Oasis Skateboard Factory in Toronto. They taught me to embrace my story, my art, and what makes me different.”
Avery is also the creator of Purposely Imperfect art creations, which he explained helped set him free as a painter.
“A lot of my inspiration comes from life and all the emotions that humans deal with living it. All of us have things that we may not like about our bodies or who we are, but authentically embracing who we are allows us to find those spaces that are truly meant for us.
“Pursuing art has many challenges but I happily face them to feel the adrenaline and one-of-a-kind feeling of bringing a thought from my mind to the real world. I get to create something that I’d like to think has the possibility to outlive me. All coming together to create a visual journal of what I’ve gone through, accomplished, and overcome in my life.”
To learn more about Avery and his work, visit KacieKulture.ca. And if you’re struggling with mental health, please visit the Canadian Mental Health Association at cmha.ca.
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