“Having a soft heart in a cruel world is courage, not weakness” (quote by Katherine Henson) is a reminder to me to take pride in being a highly sensitive person and is the inspiration for this triptych.

I created the series for the Recovered Futures Queensland group art exhibition in 2018, where artists with experiences of different mental illnesses exhibit their works in Brisbane City Hall Square.

Each piece in this series highlights the importance of embracing emotions, and to encourage self-care, self-love, and finding the strength in softness. Each photograph I executed myself of my muse Caley and then applied mixed media such as real pressed flowers, real butterflies, and gold leaf to the printed photograph, which was then preserved in antique frames.

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Soft heart

The first image presents a girl whose head is covered in flowers – encompassing her whole mind, spilling down her hair and dripping onto her shoulder. As a highly sensitive person, my mind is often buzzing with thoughts and emotions as a response to the world around me, and if I’m not careful, it can quickly become overwhelming and cause anxiety.

Embrace emotion

The second image presents the same girl with petals and flowers exploding from her heart, as she has learned to embrace her emotions and not keep them locked away. She has accepted herself as she is, and understands the importance of self-care.

Find your strength

The third and final image of the girl portrays her growth and her newfound strength in having a soft heart. Understanding your emotions isn’t easy, but denying them is harder.

It’s ok to not be ok. Take your time, don’t be hard on yourself, and be true to your feelings – the more we can do this, the better we can break the stigma of mental illness.