Healing Through Art

A digital piece done by Maia Genisio of two of her original characters, Sorcha and Danae

Ella Glass, a CHS senior, pulls a stack of papers from her backpack and offers sheets to fellow students in her ceramics class. They’re copies of the eighth edition of her zine series “mas o menos,” waiting to be folded into their proper form. A zine is typically a self-published miniature magazine, free to be filled with whatever the creator wants. Glass likes to fill her zines with collages of short pieces of writing, small drawings, images and text.

Glass’s zines start with images she stumbles upon in big books left out in cardboard donation boxes, then she adds to the collage as thoughts flow. She uses this medium as an outlet for self-expression, and a place for release. Glass finds that she can best find the inspiration and motivation to create when her thoughts are most intense; she uses zines to see those thoughts on paper, organized and better processed.

“I started to dislike the look of a white piece of paper and wanted to fill it up, and drawing is not the best way to do that for me,” Glass said. “It never has been.”

Since childhood, Glass has wished she could draw, and has carried the frustration of not meeting her own standards. Always feeling that she lacked the technical ability to draw, Glass searched for a different creative outlet. The collages in her zines gave her a way to get around that feeling; she could rearrange her thoughts visually without the pressure of needing to be “good” at drawing.

When she couldn’t find exactly what she wanted in the books and magazines she pulled from, Glass found herself simply drawing what she thought and putting it into her collages. Making collages led her back to where she started, in a “weird, full circle [way],” Glass explained.

Several issues of “mas o menos” include photos of Glass’s younger self. In bold, silver lettering across one of the photos, Glass asks, “how would she feel?” Through zines like this, Glass reflects on how she has grown and changed over time. Taking feelings of suffocation and being stuck in one place, pulling them from her thoughts and making something with them helps her to transform those emotions. “You’ve got this physical thing in front of you, and it’s doing something new, it’s doing something else,” Glass said. “You can always just grow from there. It’s like a way of not keeping your life stagnant. It’s growth. You can look at yourself and see how you’ve changed through what you’ve made. And that feels like healing.”

During the pandemic, most of CHS Sophomore Maia Genisio’s social life occurred online and through screens. “It did really feel like a barrier was up,” Genisio said. “None of it felt really real or authentic, I felt like technology kind of encompassed everything.” Looking for a way to connect with other people, Genisio moved to art. She found success in this method, even starting a small sticker business with one of her friends.

Genisio started with physical art, trying mediums such as wash acrylic and markers. But as the pandemic evolved, so did her preferred art style. As the world went online, she moved to digital art, doing fan art and character drawings, which helped relieve the loneliness Genisio felt during quarantine. Genisio was able to connect with friends over characters and stories they built together, and her art gave that a physical presence when she was alone.

Feeling more isolated than ever due to the pandemic, Genisio took a step back to explore her thoughts: “I was in my own head a lot. Writing and drawing gave me an outlet to bring some of that to life.” Through this self-reflection, she was able to find and express a part of herself she hadn’t thought to question before: her gender and sexual identity. “When I was questioning my gender, I would draw a lot with gender queer characters,” Genisio said. “It was a way for me to bring forth creativity and figure out who I was as a person.”

Using art as their outlets, Genisio was able to grow and understand her self-image as well as her identity and Glass was able to use her zines to expand her thoughts into a physical presence. Both Genisio and Glass release their feelings to the world through their art—Genisio through her sticker shop and Glass passing out her zines. Sharing their art with the world allows a chance to say what they’re thinking without having to really say it, in a way that allows them to connect with their peers on a deeper level.