This was the first visual art piece I ever made about my OCD. I was a Junior in high school when I made it.
The hand is literally a picture of my hand from seventh grade, the macabre skin the result of my compulsive hand washing.
As I put this project together, I went to the local grocery store and scoured the isles until I found a soap packaging whose look I liked. I photographed the wrapper, and using Photoshop changed the words and logos to be a vehicle of dimension and meaning – the poppy, symbol of death; disinfect, sanitize; 0% Natural.
When I first shared this piece with my peers, I was still uncomfortable sharing the fact that I had OCD with them. This is what I had to say:
I’ve been wanting to do an art project on OCD for a long time, especially because a lot of people have a lot of misconceptions about the disorder. People will casually say “oh, I’m OCD about that,” but that’s not what OCD is at all. The reality is that this is a very scary, very destructive, and very real mental illness. As I was working on the project, though, I realized that I also wanted it to be a sort of social commentary on the relatively recent phenomenon of society’s obsession with cleanliness. Because up until fifty years ago or so, household bleach and cleaners and disinfectants, the idea of a ‘white glove test’, were all ideas and standards of cleanliness that were simply not there. And I think that ultimately, while it does have it’s own place in which it is very beneficial, a lot of this boom and preoccupation in society with sterilization and sanitization and “clean” is a really negative thing. So I wanted it to also embody that as well.
Personally, this piece marked a big step in my growth as a person. I was just beginning to confront, and even just barely to accept, the reality that I was a person living with OCD. I was just beginning to express and give voice to this huge thing that I had spent so much time and energy hiding from those around me for so long, something that I am still grappling with today.